Saturday, February 10, 2007

Time for a 6PT Update!

So I'm posting on the six party talks....I know, what a surprise (sorry, I'll try to mix it up in the future).

After a string of optimistic reports leading up to the talks and persisting through as late as yesterday (Friday, IHT), it seems, as they often do, the negotiations have hit a snag (CNN). There seems to be general agreement on a timeline for beginning the process of denuclearization (China circulated a proposal calling for the North to halt activity at its reactors and processing facilities within 2 months). This represents progress over the previous round of talks, which broke up over the question of how and when to begin implementing the process (and in light of the US seizure of DPRK funds).

Although US Envoy Christopher Hill has stated that neither the US freezing of DPRK assets in Macao nor the halting of activity at the Yongbyon reactor were among the outstanding disputes (as of today), there is apparently a significant gap over how much (quantity) energy and economic aid the North is to receive.

While the overarching goal of the process remains the elimination of the North's nuclear weapons program, officials from the US and Japan seem to differ even among themselves on what an acceptable resolution would look like. While Japan's chief delegate, Kenichiro Sasae is quoted as advocating that North Korea "halt and seal" its Yongbyon reactor, Hill seems to see a freeze as an initial step to what would be a more thorough process that ultimately leads to North Korea dismantling and completely abandoning all of its nuclear weapons programs.

Although US, South Korean, and Japanese officials have been portrayed as cautiously optimistic, it's important to remember that details like this can be deal breakers (reference the cause of the breakdown of the previous round, above.) Talks are set to continue through today and tomorrow.

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