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Foreign Media Reaction

August 1, 2005

SIX-PARTY TALKS: U.S. BILATERAL DIALOGUE WITH DPRK 'WISE AND PRUDENT'

KEY FINDINGS

**  Papers find "hope for progress" given U.S. willingness to hold bilateral talks with the North.

**  Optimistic dailies identify a "firm determination to achieve progress" in all sides.

**  Skeptical observers see "no reason to be optimistic." 

**  Leftist papers warn raising human rights and abductions concerns will "complicate" talks.

MAJOR THEMES

'Diplomatic pragmatism'--  Media welcomed the U.S.' "bold decision" to hold bilateral talks with the North as a "most promising sign of progress."  Jordan's semi-official Al-Rai praised this "very dramatic American step," while South Korea's left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun opined that the "active bilateral contact" makes the "overall atmosphere better."  Papers contrasted the new "rational and practical" U.S. approach with its previous "arrogant attitude."  Official China Youth Daily applauded U.S. diplomacy's "great patience and determination," while the business- oriented Australian Financial Review hailed Washington's "belated recognition that however imperfect and frustrating diplomacy may prove...it is better than war." 

'Conspicuously conciliatory rhetoric'--  Writers saw "obvious good will" from all parties in perceiving a "quite positive" environment.  Several judged Pyongyang as "sincere and positive"; Russia's centrist Krasnaya Zvezda argued the DPRK is "interested in a diplomatic solution."  Chinese media were particularly upbeat:  official Beijing News declared "all parties have a positive, sincere and practical attitude," while pro-PRC Macau Daily News advised that "people should be optimistic."  Independent observers cited the DPRK's "catastrophic economic situation" to explain its "new tone"; Belgium's independent La Libre Belgique noted that it has far "more to gain than to lose by preferring cooperation over confrontation." 

'Little hope for a successful outcome'--  Predicting more "bluff and bluster" from the DPRK, naysayers forecast "protracted and difficult" negotiations.  Critics assailed the "large credibility gap between Pyongyang's words and deeds" and its "arm-twisting tactics"; Germany's business-oriented FT Deutschland opined the "Stalinist regime will remain irrational and unpredictable."  Japanese observers were pessimistic:  moderate Yomiuri questioned North Korea's "true intentions," doubting it "actually intends to abandon its nuclear ambitions," while business-oriented Nihon Keizai added the talks will result in more "nuclear foot-dragging."

Don't 'disrupt the agenda'--  Liberal and South Korean observers urged Japan and the U.S. not to "hurt the atmosphere of dialogue" by raising "sensitive" topics such as the North's abduction of Japanese citizens or human rights.  South Korea's moderate Hankook Ilbo found Japan's "insistence" on the hostage issue "regrettable," while conservative Chosun Ilbo advised that including human rights would make the agenda "overly complicated."  Malaysia's government-influenced Nanyang Siang Pau counseled Tokyo not to "suggest any new ideas that would hamper the opportunity" for "lasting peace."  Japanese papers countered that the North's refusal to discuss the kidnapping of Japanese was "unpardonable."

Prepared by Media Reaction Branch (202) 203-7888, rmrmail@state.gov

EDITOR:  Ben Goldberg

EDITOR'S NOTE:  Media Reaction reporting conveys the spectrum of foreign press sentiment.  Posts select commentary to provide a representative picture of local editorial opinion.  Some commentary is taken directly from the Internet.  This report summarizes and interprets foreign editorial opinion and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government.  This analysis was based on 53 reports from 17 countries over 22 July - 1 August, 2005.  Editorial excerpts are listed from the most recent date.

EAST ASIA AND PACIFIC

AUSTRALIA:  "Seeing The Light On Diplomacy"

International Editor Tony Walker wrote in the business-oriented Australian Financial Review (7/29):  "Two events that may on the surface appear to have little real connection with each other, but in fact do point to an end to a period of ideologically driven risk-taking that characterized the Bush administration's first term, supported uncritically by Canberra....  [1] In Beijing, the DPRK pledged to liquidate its nuclear weapons program verifiably if the DPRK and the U.S. normalize relations, build trust and remove the nuclear threat....  It may well turn out to be the case that six-party talks in Beijing falter on the issue of whether the U.S. is prepared to take more than a half step towards meeting Pyongyang's desires, which themselves may prove to be illusory, but the purposeful atmosphere surrounding these talks certainly represents an improvement on the bellicosity of the past several years....  [2] In Vientiane this week, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer...announced that Australia would sign the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Co-operation as the price of being invited to the East Asia Summit in Malaysia on December 14....  Evidence that diplomacy may have come back into fashion not only in Washington but also in Canberra is not the least significant development of the second Bush term. Part of this is driven by a belated recognition that however imperfect and frustrating diplomacy may prove to be, it is better than war.”

CHINA:  "Hill’s Limitation"

Weng Xiang commented in official China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (7/29):  “After the keynote speeches by the U.S. and North Korea on the second day of the talks, people got the feeling that the divergences between the two were greater than imagined.  It has heightened the worry of the various parties.  There is no trace the U.S. is stepping back from its original stance.  First, besides the nuclear issue, the U.S. also wants to talk about human rights and missile issues in this round.  Second, the U.S. suddenly changes the previous joint plan of the ROK, Japan and the U.S....  U.S. domestic conservative forces are always trying to influence the Bush administration’s North Korea policy.  At the meeting, Hill brought up the human rights issue.  It will require further observation to see whether U.S. domestic political pressure is forcing this issues, or if Hill really wants to discuss these sensitive topics at the talks.  On the policy on N. Korea, there are always disputes within the Bush administration.  Secretary Rice has made personnel changes since taking up her post, which shows she wants the State Department to take the lead on North Korea policy again.  She also appointed Hill, whom President Bush appreciates, as the representative of the U.S. for the talks.  Other countries have high expectations of him.  However, these expectations have now to a certain extent turned to disappointment.  The ROK now thinks the U.S. change of position on the joint U.S.-ROK-Japan plan has caused that plan to fail.  The primary difficulty at this round of talks is the U.S. position, not that of North Korea.  The ROK’s disappointment is not with Hill, but with the Bush administration.”

"The Six Party Talks Have Entered The Serious Negotiation Phase"

Liao Lei commented in official Xinhua Daily Telegraph (Xinhua Meiri Dianxun) (7/28):  "Judging from the positions of North Korea and the U.S., both parties have demonstrated their sincere desire to solve this problem.  However, when it comes to concrete matters, including the best way to carry out ‘words for words, actions for actions,’ the two countries still have great differences.  The crux of the problem is still the lack of mutual trust between the U.S. and North Korea.  One additional reason the talks are developing slowly is that each party has different definitions of the term  'denuclearize.’  South Korea has said that this round of talks ‘must produce some kind of joint statement’....  The South Korean suggestion is relatively useful and accurate.  If, during these talks, a document of agreed goals could be signed it would be a great result, equal to the establishment of a roadmap for the resolution of the Korean nuclear problem.”

"Six Parties Return To Negotiation In Beijing: All Parties Want A Breakthrough"

Xu Baokang, Guan Jinyong and Cheng Gang commented in official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) (7/27):  "Subtle changes to the arrangement of the conference hall for the Six Party Talks gave hints about the nature of the negotiations to those paying attention: First, the opening speech was given by Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing, rather than the head of China’s delegation, as was the case for the first three rounds.  This change represents the effort China has made for the talks and the Chinese government’s sense of investment in the talks.  In addition, the number of seats for the delegations has increased.  This shows that all parties have increased their focus on the talks.  Third, green plants have been placed in the center of the conference hall instead of colorful flowers, perhaps to symbolize the level of hardship at the talks.  Neither the U.S. nor North Korea has changed its stance.  None of the parties wants to see the talks fail, especially not the U.S.  The American Congress has repeatedly expressed doubts about the Bush administration’s measures on the Korean nuclear issue....  Hill said North Korea must clearly promise to give up nuclear and the U.S. and other countries must promise to provide compensation.  Nor does North Korea want to see the talks fail, since this would go against their interests.  But experts have indicated the talks may not achieve substantial progress.  In that case, there are perhaps two outcomes: 1) The talks adjourn without specifying a date to resume, or 2) The U.S. may return to a tough policy on North Korea, submitting the issue to the UN.  In fact the U.S. has established a schedule for such a situation.  It is still difficult to predict the outcome when each party has not yet shown its cards.” 

“The Bilateral Meetings Of The U.S. And North Korea Are Unannounced"

Wang Chong said in official Communist Youth League-run China Youth Daily (Zhongguo Qingnianbao) (7/27):  “The U.S. delegation chief Hill and North Korean delegation chief held a bilateral meeting for 75 minutes, the first bilateral contact after their arrival in Beijing.  The U.S. side has shown great patience and determination.  American media reported that Hill and his team may stay in Beijing for several weeks to complete the start of a nuclear agreement....  China should increase the weight of its mediation.  China should put forward a resolution plan on its own initiative.  Only in this way could it bring pressure to bear on the U.S. and North Korea to resolve the issues.  Strategically speaking, China needs a stable and harmonious neighborhood environment.  China’s earlier shuttle diplomacy has made the previous three rounds of talks possible.  It was also China's arrangement of a secret dinner that brought about the fourth round.”

“Not Specifying The Closing Date Of The Six Party Talks Can Promote Fuller Consultations"

Zhang Bin wrote in official Beijing-based Beijing Times (Jinghua Shibao) (7/27):  "All parties have demonstrated a common wish for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.  It is a good start.  All parties have a positive, sincere and practical attitude.  One characteristic of the talks is frequent and intense bilateral consultations.  The talks do not establish a specific closing date because all parties are invested in the talks. The lack of a closing date can promote all parties to conduct meaningful consultations.”

"Six Party Talks Opens, Five Doubts To Resolve"

Fan Hui held in Beijing-based official Beijing News (Xin Jing Bao) (7/26):  “First, will North Korea bring up the issue of U.S. nuclear disarmament issue?   Li Guoqiu, the expert on North Korean issues thinks this is a logical choice for the DPRK.  If it happens, the North Korea nuclear issue will be more complex.  The U.S. will obviously not bear to talk with North Korea equally about the disarmament issue.  Second, will North Korea link the nuclear issue with a truce agreement?  Li said North Korea is seeking a more complete security package.  This also shows the DPRK’s hope to improve relations with the U.S.  Third, will Japan bring up the hostage issue to disrupt the talks?   China, the ROK and the DPRK all oppose bringing this up in conjunction with the nuclear issue.  Japan will consider the possibility of mentioning it in the bilateral talks with the DPRK.  Fourth, how much progress will the talks make?  Experts indicate that the U.S. and DPRK are both making a good-faith effort and appreciate the opportunity.  It is important that the U.S. move toward a substantial compromise.  It is still an issue of trust.  Fifth, is this the last chance for talks?  The U.S. delegation denied this is the last chance, and every party hopes for opportunities in the future.  But if the talks fail, it is very likely that the U.S. will submit the issue to the UN.  However, the fact that U.S. wants to attend the talks shows they are paving a road for the future.”

"The Chief Of The U.S. Delegation For The Six Party Talks Gains President Bush’s Appreciation"

Zhi Xin asserted in China Radio International-sponsored official World News Journal (Shijie Xinwenbao) (7/26):  “Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill is the head of the U.S. delegation for this round of the Six Party Talks.  He is an expert on European issues in the U.S. political circle.  But he has also been the U.S. Ambassador to the ROK.  He is very fascinated with the ROK.  Hill has gained President Bush’s appreciation.  Hill’s unique opinion on nuclear issues led Secretary Rice to select him to head the delegation. He advocates contacting the DPRK, and he thinks Pyongyang should be compensated economically and politically if it agrees to give up its nuclear programs.  Hill also has a rational and practical attitude toward China.”

"For The Six Party Talks, All Parties Have High Expectations"

Official international Global Times (Huanqiu Shibao) stated (7/25):  “The five visiting delegations, with the exception of the Russians, have all announced their arrival in Beijing more than two days prior to the official start of the Six Party Talks.  This demonstrates that all parties have unusually high expectations for this round of talks.  The DPRK delegation was the first to arrive in Beijing.  A spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that North Korea’s nuclear weapons are not for having a war with the U.S.  North Korea does not want to possess nuclear weapons permanently.  Once U.S.-North Korean relations are normalized and once North Korea no longer considers the U.S. a threat, North Korea will not need to possess a single nuclear weapon.  North Korea is sincere and positive going into the fourth round of Six Party Talks....  The chief of the U.S. delegation is Assistant Secretary Christopher Hill.  Due to his skill with negotiation, Secretary Rice has given the difficult North Korea nuclear issue to Hill.  Analysts think Hill has more advantages than Kelly, who headed the U.S. Six Party delegation in the past.  First, Hill has been granted more latitude in negotiation.  A State Department official claimed that the U.S. plans to shut off mobile phones during the talks because Hill won’t need to ask for instructions during the process.  Second, President Bush and Secretary Rice have the same voice on North Korea policy.  The divergence between the White House and State Department no longer exists.”

"All Parties Of The Six Party Talks Should Be Cautious In Demanding Conditions From Others"

Yuan Qi held in China Radio International-sponsored official World News Journal (Shijie Xinwenbao) (7/22):  “The U.S. and North Korea have each put forth their demands.  It should be noted that although both countries have compromised in order to make the talks possible, neither has significantly altered its stance.  North Korea refuses to unilaterally give up its nuclear ambitions.  It has not given up its policy of 'exchanging nuclear weapons for peace.'  The U.S. hopes North Korea will seriously consider its proposal that North Korea first give up its nuclear ambitions and then be compensated.  To have continuous and progressive talks for the fourth round, the U.S., the ROK and Japan put forth a new negotiation method.  They plan to negotiate for several days and then meet again every 10 to 14 days.  It should also be noted that the closing date of the talks has not been established. This suggests that the talks will be a ‘protracted engagement.’”   

CHINA (MACAU SAR):  "A New Round Of Six-party Talks Have A Positive Beginning"

Pro-PRC Chinese-language Macau Daily News remarked (7/27):  "The six-party talks are able to resume owing to two things.  First of all, all parties insist on making the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.  Secondly, all parties clearly said that they hoped to make some progress during the new round of talks....  We must notice that there are huge differences between the U.S. and North Korea and between North Korea, Japan and South Korea on how to make the Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.  The head of the U.S. delegation, Christopher Hill, stressed, 'when North Korea makes a strategic decision to fully dismantles its nuclear programs, the U.S. and other countries will offer measures consistent with the principle of words for words and actions for actions.'  Hill said that only under this condition, the U.S. would help meet North Korea's resources demands.  Obviously, Hill means that the dismantling of the nuclear program must come first, the U.S. will then supply North Korea with electricity....  As long as North Korea and the U.S. wish to continue with the talks and they have the sincerity to settle their differences, people should be optimistic about the six-party talks....  Although there is a good atmosphere for the talks, people must be aware of the difficulties created by some due to one country's interests.  The Japanese delegation ignored the well-meaning advice from all sides and insisted on raising the historical issue of the kidnapping of Japanese people.  Japan tried to settle this issue together with the nuclear weapons and missile issues.  By doing this, it will only divert the focus of the discussion and may enrage North Korea and complicate the talks."

TAIWAN:  "Wind Sleeve Of The Korean Peninsula"

Antonio Chiang observed in mass-circulation Apple Daily (7/27):  “Each country has its own plans in mind.  The U.S. is the world policeman that wants to maintain order with regard to nuclear weapons.  China wants to become a safety lever in the Northeastern Asian region and to use North Korea as a strategic buffer zone by trying to manipulate the issue.  Russia, which used to have a profound influence...naturally does not want to find itself marginalized.  South Korea, on the other hand, is more concerned about the [possible] collapse of North Korea and less worried about the nuclear weapons possessed by Pyongyang.  It thus has tried very hard to assist Pyongyang in improving its economy and to persuade Uncle Sam to cease its tough attitude....  As for Japan, even though it is a direct victim of the nuclear crisis...all it can do, due to historical factors, is hide behind the U.S. and let Washington do the talking for it.  South Korea, on the other hand, has criticized Japan for creating hurdles for the Six-Party Talks; Seoul has claimed that Tokyo was there to disturb the talks, and such an accusation has greatly embarrassed Japan....  In the face of such an impasse, South Korea has gradually assumed a more proactive role by strengthening its ties with both North Korea and China....  On the surface, Beijing still seems to be the host of the Six-Party Talks.  But in reality, Pyongyang may still favor Seoul to play a leading role....because both Koreas are of the same ethnic origin, whereas the brotherhood between China and North Korea merely exists in name.  Seoul has modified its policies toward Pyongyang and Beijing, and the moves have created tension between itself and Washington....  But the U.S.,no matter whether it decides to go to war or live harmoniously with North Korea, cannot do it without the cooperation of South Korea.  As a result, Seoul has become the wind sleeve if people want to observe [how] the situation changes on the Korean peninsula.”

JAPAN:  "A Change In Groupings At The Six-Party Talks"

A commentary in liberal Asahi read (7/28):  "A rapid change appears to be taking place in the composition of camps among the six nations participating in the fourth round of talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Seoul appears to have left what was once a U.S.-Japan-South Korea camp and is now siding with its ethnically related neighbor to the north, while the U.S., Pyongyang's archenemy until recently, is said to be playing the role of mediator between Japan and North Korea over the intractable abduction issue....  Although Seoul reiterates there is no basic change in the joint Washington-Tokyo-Seoul approach toward urging Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear programs...both U.S. and Japanese delegates are viewing their South Korean counterparts coolly.  Despite a number of other individual or group sideline meetings held among other chief delegates to the talks, the deputy chief delegates from the U.S., Japan and South Korea only met for the first time on Wednesday. A USG official was quoted as saying that South Korea's confused state is nothing new and that the U.S. is not placing any expectations on Seoul's role at the Beijing talks. Undoubtedly, North Korea is trying to take advantage of the South's friction with the U.S. and Japan in the hope that enticing Seoul to join the Pyongyang-Beijing-Moscow camp would allow the newly augmented group to gang up on the 'enfeebled' U.S.-Japan group....  Japan's mention of the abduction issue at the six-party talks has drawn fire not only from North Korea but also from China and Russia....  The U.S., concerned about these developments, has been speaking in support of Japan. U.S. chief delegate Ambassador Hill reportedly acted as a mediator Tuesday when he had a side meeting with North Korean chief delegate Kim, urging the North to agree to a side meeting by saying, 'Japan wants to talk with you.'"

"Future Of Six-Party Talks Hangs In The Air"

Top-circulation, moderate Yomiuri editorialized (7/27):  "Denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and regional stability can only be achieved by having North Korea agree to scrap its nuclear programs. The five other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, involved in the six-party talks in Beijing need to do their utmost to achieve this goal....  The preceding three rounds of talks failed to bring about any results whatsoever. Should there be no progress this time, the raison d'etre for the six-party talks will be lost. If this happens, the issue will be taken up for discussion at the UNSC, possibly prompting (the latter) to take punitive measures against Pyongyang.  During the previous round of talks in June of last year, the U.S. made a comprehensive proposal to North Korea, urging it to make a strategic decision to dismantle its nuclear programs....  In his opening remarks at the talks on Tuesday, North Korean chief delegate Kim Kye Gwan said his nation was ready to make the strategic decision to denuclearize the peninsula. We need, however, to get a clear view of the North's true intentions as to whether it actually intends to abandon its nuclear ambitions. Unfortunately, we can hold out little hope for a successful outcome at the talks....  The only way for North Korea to avoid being isolated from the international community is for Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear programs. That also is the only way it can rebuild its ailing economy."

"DPRK's Readiness For Denuclearization Should Be Documented"

An editorial in business-oriented Nihon Keizai read (7/27):  "In their opening remarks, chief delegates from the nations participating in the six-party talks that began Tuesday in Beijing agreed on the need to denuclearize the Korean peninsula, showing firm determination to achieve progress at the resumed talks. The question is the content of "denuclearization" as proposed by the U.S. and North Korea. While Washington called on Pyongyang to permanently abandon its nuclear programs, the North implicitly called for the denuclearization of the peninsula, including U.S. troops stationed in the South. Although there is still a wide gulf between the U.S. and the DPRK, both sides should further clarify the contents of their proposals for denuclearization.  All joint communiqués at the revived talks, which we hope will make progress toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, need to be documented. These documented notes should also stipulate that if Pyongyang violates its commitments contained therein, the case should be referred to the UNSC for the possible imposition of punitive measures against the North.... Following the start of the six-party talks in a cool and businesslike atmosphere, the other five nations should deal patiently with the North to bring about fruitful progress in the latest round of negotiations, which will likely become protracted and difficult....  Japan should also insist that North Korea agree to side talks on the abduction issue." 

"First, DPRK Must Freeze Nuclear Development"

Liberal Asahi editorialized (7/26):  "The fourth round of six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions begins today in Beijing after a hiatus of 13 months. In the interim, the North declared that it possessed nuclear weapons, making the outlook for the revived talks far from rosy....  First of all, the participating nations at the talks must get the North to scrap its nuclear weapons, while creating a monitoring system to verify Pyongyang's dismantlement of its nuclear programs. These are the goals to be achieved at the revived talks, and we strongly hope that favorable results will be forthcoming. As long as North Korea regards nuclear weapons as an important political and strategic tool to protect the Kim Jong Il regime, it will not abandon its nuclear ambitions without the other participating countries in the talks providing a sense of security by guaranteeing the Kim dictatorship.  Given the fact that they cannot go to war with North Korea, the U.S. and Japan have no choice but to make a comprehensive offer to Pyongyang, combining normalization of diplomatic relations with economic assistance, in exchange for an end to its nuclear development. Initially, the North must freeze its plutonium-based nuclear development....  It is unpardonable that Pyongyang refuses to discuss the abduction issue with Tokyo. It is also only natural that Japan should insist that the issue be addressed at the six-party talks and other venues for discussion. All six of the participating nations must, therefore, resolve the nuclear issue to realize progress on the abduction issue at the talks."

"Last Chance For DPRK To Scrap Nuclear Programs"

A commentary in liberal Asahi read (7/26):  "The biggest focal point at the revived six-party talks will be whether North Korea makes a strategic decision to abandon its nuclear programs. What will be required at the talks is close and strong policy coordination among the U.S., Japan and South Korea that will not allow the North to play for time again.  Needless to say, a key goal of the six-way talks is not only the end of Pyongyang's nuclear programs but also the achievement of peace and stability in Northeast Asia through the normalization of U.S.-DPRK relations and Japan-DRPK ties. Considering that the revived talks will likely run for a considerable amount of time, it is extremely important that the U.S., Japan and South Korea maintain policy coordination and cooperation so as not to allow the North to drive a wedge into the trilateral framework.... Pyongyang should fully realize that a failure to show sincerity at the revived talks will only further isolate the reclusive communist state and further impoverish its people."   

"Six-Party Talks Should No Longer Allow North Korea To Play for Time"

Business-oriented Nihon Keizai said (7/25):  "No substantive progress was achieved in the previous three rounds of the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, allowing Pyongyang time to move ahead with its nuclear development. The fourth round of talks, however, will likely become an endless and very difficult round of negotiations in order to avoid an ambiguous conclusion that will again lead to nuclear foot-dragging on the part of the North. The six participants at the coming round should reach a clear accord that will lead to the North's dismantlement of its nuclear program.  If the six-party talks fail to persuade the North to scrap its nuclear programs, there will be increasing sentiment that the talks are unnecessary and calls to refer Pyongyang's nuclear development to the UNSC. In February, North Korea declared that it already possessed nuclear weapons, so the five other participating nations should resume the talks with the North's alleged ownership of nuclear weapons as a fait accompli. South Korea has proposed an offer of 2 million kilowatts of electricity if the North agrees to scrap its nuclear development. Seoul should, however, supply electricity to the North only when its nuclear dismantlement becomes clear and verifiable. Otherwise, there are fears that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula will prove impossible."

MALAYSIA:  "To Reach A Mutual Understanding And Turning Point For 6 Party Talks"

Leading Petaling Jaya-based government-influenced Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily said (7/30):  "For the past years, North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons has been a controversy in East Asia. Although, the six-party talks between China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the U.S. and North Korea had been held for three consecutive times, the outcome was never conclusive. Now the willingness of the U.S. and North Korea to return for further negotiations showed signs of optimistic improvements.  Nonetheless, there are speculations that North Korea have been swashbuckling and claiming to have nuclear weapons, neighboring countries are not too sure about this and would never take this potential risk lightly. North Korea reiterated that they merely aim at protecting their sovereignty, consolidating their integrity in East Asia and also securing economic aids from every nation concerned. Thus, to make the 6 party talks a success, there must be mutual trust between the U.S. and North Korea, with China and Russia playing the mediating roles and Japan and South Korea rendering economic support.”

"Hopes U.S. Would Cherish Pyongyang's Friendship In New Round Of Talks"

Government-influenced Chinese-language Nanyang Siang Pau declared (7/26):  "The new round of the Six Party Nuclear Weapon talk begins in Beijing today with a bilateral session between North Korea and South Korea.  We hope that at this bilateral session, Pyongyang and Seoul will be able to reach consensus on a Nuclear Free Zone for the Korea Peninsula framework.  The bait for Pyongyang to discard its nuclear weapon production project is the U.S. assurance of North Korea's national security and the providence of economic aids for North Korea to build its country.  At this coming negotiation, we can expect Pyongyang leaders to focus on exploring economic advantages that they will reap in exchange for giving up its nuclear weapon production plants.  We do not think Pyongyang has ever feared the threat of economic sanctions from the U.S.  For they know that both China and South Korea would be more than willing to fight to contribute to North Korea's economic reform efforts.  What North Korea could not stand in the past was the arrogant attitude of the Bush administration which acted like a supremo bullying a poor farmer.  But in recent months, we are glad to note that the strained relations between Washington and Pyongyang have reached a friendly stage good enough for Pyongyang to extend an unofficial invitation for Rice and Bush to visit North Korea.  Such a friendship gesture by North Korea leader should be cherished at this Six Party talk.  We hope the Washington negotiation team can tune down their arrogant attitude at the talk.  We also hope that Japan would not suggest any new ideas that would hamper the opportunity for the region to achieve lasting peace in the Korean Peninsula."

SOUTH KOREA:  "Additional Conditions By North Korea For Its Nuclear Weapons Withdrawal Must Be Rejected"

Independent Dong-a Ilbo opined (8/1):  “At the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks currently being held in Beijing, North Korea was said to have demanded a resumption of construction of its light water reactors and electricity aid consisting of two million kilowatts in exchange for its 'withdrawal of nuclear weapons'....  It is reported that North Korea’s demands led to a new obstacle in attuning the wording of the joint declaration of the Six-Party Talks.  The ROKG had already mentioned its plan through its major offer, which says that electricity aid would replace the need for the construction of North Korea’s light water reactors, and the necessary resources would come from the funds that would have been spent for the construction, amounting to $2.4 billion dollars (or 2.4 trillion won).  The U.S. lauds the supply of electricity as a means of finding a solution to the problems that could arise with the construction of light water reactors.  Nevertheless, the North’s insistence on the resumption of constructing light water reactors is because it is committed to being 'a nuclear sovereign state' no matter what.  It is North Korea’s typical negotiating tactic to push for its targets if its opponents take a step back.  The North is arguing with the logic that 'its right to peaceful usage of nuclear weapons' should be guaranteed.  However, there is precedence from 1994 when it had ignored the Geneva Convention, which had predicated the freezing of its nuclear weapons programs, but it continued to secretly develop them.  Even if the U.S. concedes and the construction of the light water reactors is resumed, the South is likely to pay for them.  Public opinion will never accept this when trillions of won has to be spent for the supply of electricity.  It is said that at these Six-Party Talks, only 'principles' and 'goals' are to be set, and that specified procedures and contents will be left for the next round of talks.  If so, it would merely be doing what the North wants without any fundamental solution and maintaining South Korean aid as we have always done.  The South and the U.S. must bluntly say 'No' to the North on constructing light water reactors.”

"‘Joint Document’ Key To Six-Party Talks"

Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (8/1):  “The current round of the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue has been ongoing for a week now, and looks as if it will be prolonged further.  Still, there is active bilateral contact between participating nations leading to a better understanding of everyone’s intentions and substantial ironing out of differences, making the overall atmosphere better than any time before....  The delegations are currently working on a 'joint declaration,' the draft of which was produced by China as the host nation, based on the basic positions of each nation as expressed in their keynote remarks.  Reportedly it outlines the concept and scope of 'denuclearization' and discusses security guarantees for North Korea, the normalization of relations for Pyongyang with the U.S. and Japan, and plans for promoting economic cooperation.  Each issue is a sensitive one in which the North and the U.S. clearly differ, so the wording in the joint declaration will be very important.  Indeed, there has reportedly been intense wrangling over each phrase.  The current round of talks must produce results and create a firm framework for sustainable dialogue, and a joint document must be adopted even if it takes time or is somewhat lacking in content.  It will be hard to expect much in the future if, as in the previous three rounds of the talks, the participating nations just try to get by with a 'chairman’s statement' that does not have much binding power.  The delegations need to be of the mindset that the real negotiations begin from here on in and exert themselves all the more to make the talks successful.”

"Six-Party Talks Must Stay Focused On Essentials"

Conservative Chosun Ilbo editorialized (7/29):  “The question of whether to deal with North Korea’s human rights issue in this round, and to what extent, could be a make or break point for the talks.  According to ROK officials, the ROK, the U.S. and Japan specifically agreed not to include the human rights issue when they coordinated their approaches, but the U.S. performed an about-face at the last minute.  Needless to say, the urgency of improving human rights in North Korea cannot be emphasized enough.  There is even a sense in which Pyongyang’s human rights abuses and nuclear program cannot be considered separately, because they are both the result of the Stalinist country’s international isolation, which has caused it to turn on its own people.  But the overall goal of the Six-Party Talks is to resolve the nuclear dispute.  If the human rights issue is to be dealt with in the same fell swoop, the negotiations will get overly complicated, and that could offer the North a fresh excuse to boycott the talks.  Of course the U.S. may simply be raising North Korean human rights as a negotiating strategy, but it had better reconsider focusing on it as a goal for the talks.  Neither, for that matter, should North Korea try to broaden the agenda with its last-minute introduction of the ambiguous concept of a 'nuclear-free zone' and attempts to dissolve the Seoul-Washington alliance.  This round of the talks must produce a breakthrough in the nuclear stalemate, and for that to happen the agenda should be pared down to the essentials so that all parties can focus on the same goal.  Even then it will still be difficult to find a solution.”

"Agree On Goals, Process For Six-Party Talks"

Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun editorialized (7/28):  “We find it undesirable that the U.S. has raised the issues of missiles and human rights at the ongoing Six-Party Talks, because doing so disrupts the agenda.  It is also unfortunate that the U.S. has separated the issue of normalizing relations with the North from the Six-Party Process.  North Korea, for its part, needs to make more realistic and concrete proposals instead of issuing abstract proposals, such as that Washington should give up its hostile policy toward Pyongyang....  It will not be easy to narrow ongoing differences between the U.S. and North Korea on resolving the nuclear issue overnight.  In this situation, it would be most effective to first agree on a goal and establish procedures for moving towards that goal.  As proposed by the ROKG, the goal should be for the North to give up its nuclear programs while other countries normalize diplomatic relations with the North and provide security assurances and economic cooperation to it.  Naturally, arriving at this goal needs phased stages and a framework for discussion.  Furthermore, it will be important to stick to the principle of ‘words for words’ and ‘actions for actions’ at each stage.  Above all, the most important thing for the talks to proceed smoothly is for the U.S. and North Korea to be prepared to simultaneously make strategic decisions, because you cannot resolve the issue at hand by arbitrarily demanding that the other side first take action.  Needless to say, a guiding role by the ROK will be important as well.”

"North Korea Says It Is Ready To Make A ‘Strategic Decision’"

Moderate Hankook Ilbo opined (7/27):  “The atmosphere of the fourth round of the Six-Party Talks, which officially opened in Beijing yesterday, was quite positive, especially with chief North Korean delegate Kim Kye-gwan saying that, ‘The fundamental thing in the talks is to make real progress in realizing the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula'...asserting that the North is ready to make a strategic decision toward that end.  Furthermore, chief U.S. delegate Christopher Hill stressed that if North Korea gives up its nuclear programs, other countries involved should take corresponding measures consistent with the principle of ‘words for words’ and ‘actions for actions,’ sending out positive signals for the talks on his part.  In an unprecedented move, the U.S. and North Korea have already held bilateral talks ahead of the opening of the multilateral talks.  Moreover, for the sake of the talks’ productivity, it seems desirable that the participants of the talks are refraining from directly discussing thorny issues, such as the highly enriched uranium program and arms reduction.  Still, it is hard to predict how the discussions will proceed on key issues, including the concrete procedure for the North to abandon its nuclear programs and the content of a security guarantee demanded by the communist state.  In order to resolve these thorny issues, it is essentially important for the participating countries to have serious discussions and to work hard to build up mutual trust.  In this regard, it is regrettable that the Japanese delegation has taken issue with the problems of North Korean missiles and its abductions of Japanese citizens, despite outspoken concerns from relevant countries.  The abduction issue is a very unfortunate incident that must be resolved before relations between the North and Japan are normalized.  However, Japan must note that its insistence on this issue could diminish the focus of the talks and hurt the atmosphere of dialogue at a time when closer cooperation between the participating countries is required more than ever before.”

"N. Korea’s Fate Hangs By A Thin Thread"

Conservative Chosun Ilbo maintained (7/26):  "The fourth round of the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear issue opens in Beijing on Tuesday, a crucially important meeting that could decide whether the nuclear dispute can be resolved diplomatically or if it will move on to a stage of further pressure and confrontation.  The overall goal of Seoul, Washington, and Tokyo is for Pyongyang to declare in writing that it will scrap its nuclear programs, based on a thought that a more ambiguous decision like merely freezing the program would only buy Pyongyang time to wriggle out of a permanent solution....  But North Korea appears to harbor expectations entirely at odds with the three countries’....  By disarmament, the North appears to mean any nuclear weapons the U.S. has deployed in Asia.  If Pyongyang is going to insist on these sticking points, the outlook for the Six-Party Talks will be grim.  What has brought North Korea back to the negotiating table after boycotting the talks for more than a year is the consistent and principled response of the international community....  Seoul must make it clear that progress in the nuclear dispute and in the inter-Korean relations cannot be separated.  If South Korea instead goes its own way with a stop-gap measure in the hope that it can then persuade the North to give up its nuclear program once inter-Korean relations improve, it would lose out on both counts....  Any attempt to buy more time by returning to the talks and then walking away without giving up its nuclear ambitions would mean that North Korea has squandered its last chance for a peaceful resolution.  It would then be left standing at the edge of a cliff."

"N. Korea And U.S. Must Be Flexible"

Nationalist, left-leaning Hankyoreh Shinmun asserted (7/26):  "The upcoming round of Six-Party Talks commences with more positive factors in play than previous rounds.  It is the attitudes of North Korea and the U.S. that will determine the talks’ success or failure, and both have become more flexible....  This time you can sense an earnest desire to resolve the issue at hand.  We believe that if both the North and the U.S. rid themselves of their long-held distrust and negotiate faithfully, then there will be no problems that cannot be resolved....  Our government has played a considerable role in getting the talks started again with its proposal of energy aid to the North.  It needs to productively guide the atmosphere so that...concrete results will be attained....  It needs to lead in a way that encourages a cooperative approach by the participating nations so that substantial progress is made....  This round of Six-Party Talks will essentially be the last chance to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue diplomatically.  If progress is slow or the talks fail to produce an agreement, then the ruinous hardline approach to the North could arise again.  We again call for the talks to deal with the immediate task of doing away with the North’s nuclear program and achieving a denuclearized Korean Peninsula.  Only then can a firm foundation for peace be established."

"One Last Chance In Beijing"

Independent Joong-Ang Ilbo editorialized (7/25):  "The success of the upcoming Six-Party Talks depends on two variables.  The first is whether the North will demand another precondition for dismantling its nuclear programs.  North Korea has insisted that the goal of the talks be ‘denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula’....  It sounds as if the North will abandon its nuclear program only when the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War is replaced with a peace treaty....  If the North insists on these points, it is tantamount to declaring that it has no intention of having further talks.  A peace treaty would be a tremendous task involving the UN Command. The same applies to the mutual disarmament suggestion.  How long will it take to have mutual inspections and verifications?  This would be nothing but a ploy, by which the North would secure compensation while keeping its nuclear programs intact till the end, to use as a bargaining chip.  The North should realize that international society will not be deceived so easily.  Since the third round of the talks, the U.S. has taken a step backward from offering compensation ‘after the dismantling of nuclear programs’ to ‘when the North starts freezing its nuclear programs.’  Furthermore, Washington has recently expressed its intent to have bilateral talks with the North within the framework of the Six-Party Talks.  These changes give us hope for progress.  The problem will be the U.S. stance on the North’s highly enriched uranium program.  If Washington makes this an issue, it will only lead to discordance.  Success, after all, seems to depend on how Pyongyang and Washington detour around these problems while seeking solutions in a wise and prudent manner."

"Six-Party Talks Are Decisive Moments For Inter-Korean Relations"

Independent Dong-a Ilbo remarked (7/25):  "If North Korea refuses during the upcoming Six-Party Talks to accept Seoul’s ‘important proposal’ to provide it with 2 million kilowatts of electricity aid [in return for abandoning its nuclear programs,] the possibility of a diplomatic resolution to the nuclear issue will grow even more remote. Furthermore, tensions between the U.S. and North Korea will rise alarmingly higher and exchanges between the two Koreas, which have recently gained momentum, will be hit hard....  Now that the North has declared that the upcoming talks would be the ‘final chance’ for negotiations, the North’s option is clear:  If it renounces its nuclear programs, it will clear the way for regime security and economic development to be attained. However, if it continues to make unreasonable demands, such as arms reductions predicated on its possession of nuclear programs, then there will be no guarantees for North Korea’s future.”

EUROPE

BRITAIN:  "Fourth Time Lucky?"

The left-of-center Independent speculated (7/26):  "After all the raised hopes and fallen expectations of previous talks, there remains a large credibility gap between Pyongyang's words and deeds.  With good reason, the US Congress remains extremely doubtful about doing anything that might prop up the odious regime of Kim Jong-il.  Their hostility in turn has made it difficult for a White House divided in its advice and instincts to present a clear policy towards North Korea.  Does it want accommodation or regime change, or could the one lead to the other?"

FRANCE:  "North Korea Could Give Up its Nuclear Arsenal"

Nadia Hadj-Bouziane wrote in Catholic La Croix (7/27):  "The resumption of negotiations on the North Korean nuclear program’s dismantling seem to have begin on a good basis. First of all because the U.S. has straight away asserted its openness to conciliation....  For the first time, they also acknowledged the ‘sovereignty’ of North Korea....  For a little while now, George W. Bush has called North Korea’s number one ‘Mr. Kim Jong-il’, leaving out the term ‘dictator’. To be treated with respect was the ultimate claim of the North Korean leader....  The Beijing meeting should enable the creation of a climate of trust....  However, one should not forget that if North Korea always stepped back during the various negotiations that gathered the 6 parties several times in vain, it is because through the normalization of its relation with Washington and Seoul, the Stalinist regime also fears the spreading of democracy in North Korea.”

"Washington And Pyongyang Reinitiate The Dialogue"

Caroline Duke contended in Communist L’Humanité (7/27):  "If the two parties displayed an obvious good will yesterday, the renunciation of North Korea's nuclear program is far from being established....  A renunciation by North Korea of its program would need to go along with the withdrawal of American nuclear arms in South Korea and of compensation offers by the participants to North Korea talks.”

GERMANY:  "North Korea"

Dietrich Alexander argued in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (8/1):  "Of course, we should not count the chickens before they are hatched, but the conspicuously conciliatory rhetoric between the U.S. superpower and the 'rogue state' North Korea has made our ears prick....  Even though the final communiqué of the six-party talks has not yet been adopted, we can state a new quality in the relationship among the opponents.  We owe this mainly to Washington and its chief envoy Christopher Hill.  Obviously, the Americans have realized that a martial tone towards the bankrupt state is counter-productive.  The North Korean people are starving and its Stalinist leadership has hit upon the fatal idea of being able to survive economically and politically with an isolationist course.  But North Korea can expect one thing:  a bit of respect, an attitude of the other side that does not violate its dignity; to put it briefly:  talks on eye level.  The U.S. has now also accepted this.  Evidence of this is one-to-one talks without the four mediating nations.  Hill obviously succeeded in winning the North Koreans' confidence and in offering a solution that allows them to save face instead of moaning about everything according to the Cheney style.  It is not what you say but how you say it.  Pyongyang's threats with the nuclear club are not helpful as are the wild abuses from Washington."

"North Korea At The Table"

Kirstin Wenk stated in right-of-center Die Welt of Berlin (7/27):  "Kim Jong-Il will have carefully listened when Hill promised the U.S. will not attack the country.  Kim's main fear is a U.S. invasion like in Iraq.  This is the rationale behind the regime's rejection of the six-party talks in the past year and the drastic acceleration of the nuclear program.  Bush and Rice's deviation from the proclaimed line to cause regime change in tyrannical countries like North Korea is in part a success for the unapproachable regime.  The leadership in Pyongyang can claim that it was right to put the nuclear bomb on the table, at least for the time being.  Iran will closely watch this move.  The new talks also mean a victory for diplomatic pragmatism in contradiction to a confrontational approach--this is a success for South Korea and China which both had warned Bush, saying that bashing Pyongyang could lead to a dead end or even war, which would have hit the southern brother in particular.  North Korea's neighbor China also wants a nuclear-free Korean peninsular and engages as a host.  A failure would not just mean a loss of face for the new and old superpowers, it could also lead to a new conflict between the U.S. and China.  How will China react when the U.S. urges the UNSC to impose sanctions on North Korea?  Will it protect its small communist brother like in the Korean War?  The six-party talks required the U.S. to realize that there is no alternative to a careful approach.  A war must be avoided.  Beijing must now show how great its influence on the leadership in Pyongyang still is."

"North Korea's Odyssey"

Business-oriented Financial Times Deutschland of Hamburg concluded (7/27):  "There is no spirit of cooperation in the dispute over the nuclear program, and it is questionable whether the parties involved are heading for the same harbor.   However, since yesterday, the ship has some tailwind.  The resumption of the negotiations between North Korea, the U.S., China, Russia, South Korea and Japan alone is already a success.  But there is no reason to be optimistic.  As in the past, it will be tedious work, although North Korea's goal is clear:  The country want economic assistance and security guaranties.  But the Stalinist regime will remain irrational and unpredictable.  Too often Pyongyang has stopped the talks in the past, made wild threats and caused an unnecessary escalation of the situation.  Ironically, the American good cop must put its trust in China in this conflict, despite the other disputes between the two countries.  North Korea depends on China's goodwill."

"Good Opportunity"

Harald Maas commented in left-of-center Frankfurter Rundschau (7/26):  "This time, it looks promising that the six-party talks will not just become another diplomatic ritual.  The countries involved have met three times without getting any closer to solving the dispute over North Korea's nuclear program.  Neither Washington nor Pyongyang wanted to make a move, and China as the host was satisfied that there were any talks at all.  Now, things are moving, apparently because Washington has changed its mind.  U.S. American and North Korean negotiators met twice in recent weeks for bilateral talks.  Japanese agencies reported that the U.S. proposed to set up a bureau in Pyongyang.  This would be a great move forward for the U.S. and North Korea, which are officially still at war."

"Peace"

Peter Sturm observed in center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine (7/25):  "Regime change in North Korea would be desirable for the people there, but this cannot play a role in the six-party talks on the nuclear (weapons) program.  The goal of the talks must be more short-term.  Pyongyang's recent demand appears to be quite right.  Because Kim Yong-il is convinced that the U.S. threatens him, a peace treaty, which formally ends the Korea War, might lead to a solution.  This concession cannot be the beginning of the talks--as North Korea demands--but should be the final result.  Indispensable would be that Pyongyang renounces nuclear weapons.  North Korea could then get its security guarantee, the peninsular would be free of nuclear weapons, and South Korea could help the North to prevent its collapse, which would come costly.  However, one danger might increase:  Nothing is so dangerous to the regime in Pyongyang like peace. At the end, even poor North Koreans might benefit."

ITALY:  "U.S. And North Korea Talk"

Ennio Caretto noted in centrist, top-circulation Corriere della Sera (7/26):  “An unexpected bilateral meeting yesterday in Beijing between the U.S. and North Korea....  For 75 minutes, Christopher Hill, U.S. Department of State’s director of Asian affairs, and Kim Kye Gwan, North Korean Foreign Undersecretary, discussed Pyongyang’s nuclear program.  The meeting raised hopes of a possible improvement of relations between the two historic enemies, but Hill minimized this saying that the discussion was only a contact, not negotiations....  At the White House, spokesman Scott McCellan spoke about ‘a simple exchange of information’....  A few weeks ago, Washington refused official bilateral talks, insisting on those between the six.  The situation changed, at least in appearance, after Secretary Rice assured North Korea that the U.S. acknowledged it, did not intend to attack, and announced the shipment of 50 thousand tons of food aid to Pyongyang.”

RUSSIA:  "Easy Does It"

Andrey Ivanov said in business-oriented Kommersant (7/28):  “The U.S. and North Korean delegations demonstrate a desire for positive results, according to observers.   For lack of anything better, agreeing to meet again in September would be a success, say participants in the current round of the six-party talks.”

"Talks Have Potential"

Aleksandr Vorontsov argued in centrist Nezavisimaya Gazeta (7/27):  "The six-party format of discussions on North Korea has proven useful.  The fact that, despite difficulties and yearlong break, the sides have met for a fourth round shows they see a potential to it.  No breakthrough is expected at this stage.  It is important the sides make progress, bring their positions closer together, and agree to continue the dialogue.  The six-party talks are designed to help the U.S. and the DPRK, the two principal countries involved in the crisis, strike common ground.  Russia can play an important role, too.  Moscow has a history of high-quality relations with both Koreas that neither the U.S. nor Japan has.  Russia can contribute actively to bilateral and six-party meetings, as well as to solving North Korea’s energy problem."

"Cautious Optimism Unfounded"

Georgiy Bulychev wrote in reformist Vremya Novostey (7/28):  "Cautious optimism is good, but it doesn’t apply here.   What is going on in Beijing is a diplomatic game.   While the U.S. and North Korea’s positions have softened somewhat, basically they haven’t changed.”

"World May Lose Patience"

Vladimir Pavlov noted in reformist Vremya Novostey (7/26):  “North Korean authorities kept postponing the dialogue, referring to the U.S.' hostile attitude.’   It seems now that even the most die-hard anti-Americans in the North Korean leadership realize that arm-twisting tactics and statements on Pyongyang’s ‘nuclear potential’ may cause the world to ultimately lose its patience.”

"Light At The End Of The Tunnel"

Georgiy Bulychev and Aleksandr Vorontsov asserted in reformist Novyye Izvestiya (7/26):  "The DPRK doesn’t really care if the talks make progress.   It is convinced that, with its nuclear ambitions condemned globally, it can hope for economic assistance anyway, as no one wants ‘nuclear’ North Korea to collapse.   The question arises, why bother talking at all?   Well, the DPRK needs the talks to prolong the ‘strategic pause,’ as its leader Kim Jong Il has despaired of coming to terms with the George Bush Administration.    Instead, he prefers maintaining a status quo until the next presidential elections in the United States.   The Americans have to realize that.   An alternative to the negotiations is a blockade of and a war with the DPRK, which is unacceptable.  So they decide they would do better to try and put a good face on poor business, assuring the political establishment at home that the negotiation process is moving forward.”

"Searching For A Miracle"

Oleg Kiryanov wrote in official government-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta (7/26):  “The irony is that, while all parties to the talks speak of the need for peace and security in the region and a nuclear-free status for the Korean peninsula, they can’t reach an agreement.   The U.S. demands that the DPRK give up its nuclear weapons first and get security guarantees later.   Pyongyang insists on the reverse order, and sizable economic assistance on top of that.   Many experts believe the North Koreans agreed to come to Beijing after South Korea suggested that the North shut down its nuclear program in exchange for 2,000,000 kw of electric power supplied annually free of charge.”

"What It Takes To Undo The Korean Tangle"

Vladimir Kuzyr held in centrist army-run Krasnaya Zvezda (7/26):  “That Pyongyang is back at the negotiating table is a good sign attesting to its interest in a diplomatic solution to the crisis.   It is not the U.S.' playing tough, as Washington wants it to appear, or pressure from the international community that have made the DPRK return to the talks.   While those factors cannot be dismissed entirely, they are not the chief motives behind Pyongyang’s decision.   It has to do with internal reasons...suggesting that Pyongyang will seek a compromise in Beijing....  The U.S. provoked the ‘Korean crisis,’ without having real reasons for it....  The question is whether America is ready to give up its tough stand.    Secretary Condoleezza Rice, during her recent tour of Asian capitals, hinted at a change in that policy....  Experts say Washington has to make changes.   Sustaining heavy casualties in Iraq, the U.S...., which has proclaimed itself the world’s leader, faces other challenges-terrorism, nuclear proliferation, protectionism in trade, climate change, infectious diseases--that it can’t handle on its own.  The same goes for Pyongyang’s nuclear challenge.  The U.S. can’t make North Korea shut down its nuclear program.  Other than open aggression, there is no way the Americans can effect regime change in that country.   But with their strength sapped in Iraq, the Americans can’t seriously consider a military option in North Korea.   Even if they decided to try it, they would have to overcome resistance from South Korea, Japan, China and Russia first.”

AUSTRIA:  "Joining Forces Against Kim's Bizarre Nuclear Game"

Wolfgang Greber opined in centrist Die Presse (7/26):  "It is for China and the US to pull the nuclear crocodile's teeth:  If China issued a serious threat to freeze its aid, while the US offered Pyongyang peace and cooperation, North Korea might be ready to give up its nuclear weapons. Such concerted action would have a greater chance of success if all the global economic giants, including Japan and the EU, held before North Korea the prospect of a Marshall Plan-like aid package. Such an investment could pay off. And who knows:  An economic opening could sooner or later even lead to the totalitarian regime's collapse. However, it is doubtful how serious China really is about leaning on Kim. After all, a strategic joker in the game with Japan, Russia, and the US that attracts much attention and binds military capacities is not a bad trump for an aspiring super power."

BELGIUM:  "Kim Jong-Il, The Nuclear Bomb Diva"

Chief editor Michel Konen maintained in independent La Libre Belgique (7/27):  "It is, of course, much too soon to consider that a decisive step has been made for world security.  But one will rejoice at the new tone that is prevailing during the six-party talks meeting in Beijing....  Until recently, the 'dialogue’ between the U.S. and North Korea boiled down to a long list of diplomatic insults.  One the one hand, Kim Jong-Il, a perfect Stalin-style dictator, made frequent and provoking statements that he had nuclear weapons, that he would imminently be conducting a nuclear test, or that he was going to treat several tons of uranium for military purposes.  On the other hand, George Bush was putting North Korea on the top of his axis of evil list and calling it an outpost of tyranny.  And suddenly, two weeks ago, the tune changed.  Pyongyang announced that President Bush would be welcome, and the latter, calling Kim Jong-Il ‘Mister,’ replied that he was willing to open a liaison office in the North Korean capital, provided, of course, that Pyongyang gives up its nuclear program, which North Korea said it was perfectly willing to consider....  It is a real small-steps and cautious mutual concessions policy that led the United States to a de facto recognition of North Korea and the Pyongyang Stalinist regime to return to the negotiations table.  China’s pressure on its North Korean neighbor, the country’s catastrophic economic situation, aid that South Korea promised, the possible resumption of U.S. food assistance, and Japan’s pledge to reward North Korean if it showed a cooperative attitude, were all small leverages that ultimately convinced North Korea that it had more to gain than to lose by preferring cooperation over confrontation.  We aren’t there yet, but at least the six-party talks have resumed.”

CROATIA:  "U.S. Will Not Attack North Korea"

Tomislav Burorac stated in Zagreb-based Government-owned Vjesnik (7/28):  "Misunderstandings could occur when talking about details.  Americans have agreed to meet separately with the other side on the margins of joint six-party talks--what North Korea has been requesting from the beginning, and Americans had been refusing.  However, even in their softened starting platform, Americans have not mentioned normalization of relations, which is one of the other side’s conditions for giving up nuclear weapons.  Even if they only agree to continue talks, in the fifth round, it would be a positive sign of willingness to resolve the Korean nuclear crisis.”

SPAIN:  "Atomic Bargaining"

Left-of-center El País editorialized (7/28):  "The expectation that was awakened by the conversations about nuclear disarmament in North Korea...for now are not concrete, aside from the optimism that the six parties have started in their meeting in Beijing.  It is certain that Bush has smoothed out his belicose rhetoric regarding Pyongyang, absolutely ruling out any intention of attack, one of the basic motives of Kim Jong Il in resuming dialogue.  But for the moment, the Communist leader, master of delay and ambiguity, left his objectives and wishes so that the parties will hope that Pyongyang will move first; that is to say, that the carrots of Washington and Seoul are dependent of the verification of the dismantling of the atomic program....  But the tone of the White House...and the daring South Korean project...represents a clear turn regarding the absolute intransigence of Bush at the end of 2002....  The question continues to be if this new date will be different from other disasters....  The big obstacle continues to be the North Korean nuclear arsenal...it is the only active strategy from this Stalinist regime, despite the high tension with the US, it is the basic lever of the political survival for this dictator."

MIDDLE EAST

JORDAN:  "Convincing Us Of The Convincible"

Tarek Masarweh noted in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (7/26):  “These days, the international community is being asked to be convinced of facts and policies that are not convincing, under pressure of potential sanctions and UNSC resolutions some times and potential use of military force and occupation at other times.  Let us take North Korea as an example.  We, and the world, are asked to be convinced that this starving country is capable of manufacturing nuclear weapons, and that with these weapons, it is threatening South Korea, Japan, and the U.S.  How? Why? No one knows....  Let us take another example of convincing people of the inconvincible: Syria.  Every time explosions go off in Baghdad, an Iraqi official rises in accusations against Syria....  North Korea is an example of repression, and it could constitute a repressing power against its neighbors.  Syria is another example of repression when it comes to its relations with the U.S. and the latter’s allies, and it offers a different example of a repressing power when it comes to its relations with Lebanon.”

"The North Korean Nuclear File:  Did Washington Back Down?"

Mohammad Kharroub speculated in semi-official, influential Al-Rai (7/26):  "In a very noticeable gesture, the U.S. announced a direct bilateral meeting between an American delegation and a North Korean delegation about Pyongyang’s nuclear program.  This is no doubt a very dramatic American step that comes following a number of North Korean signs that have been met with intransigence by the Bush administration....  The U.S. decision to approval a bilateral meeting might be explained as being in line with the well-known pragmatic approach of America, although Bush and members of his administration are not known for such approaches since they favor pre-emptive wars and threats of sanctions and attacks....  It is too early to know the extent of Washington’s evident leniency....  So what happened [to make Washington become lenient]?  It could be the set of international and regional circumstances and the new alliances as indicated by Beijing’s categorical rejection of any military action or sanctions against North Korea, supported by Russia’s and South Korea’s rejection of the same thing." 

UAE:  "Progress On Pyongyang"

The English-language expatriate-oriented Khaleej Times declared (7/26):  "The much-debated six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear weapons programme were finally brought back on track yesterday. There has been mixed response to Pyongyang's return to the talks. While the Asian neighbours of the North Korean regime are fervently hoping of a breakthrough in the efforts to engage the rogue regime, the Western nations, the US in particular, do not appear so upbeat.  Yet, the very fact that the Beijing talks are being held in the first place is a sign of progress in dealing with the 'Dear Leader' Kim.  But the most promising sign of progress is the bold decision of the US and North Korean envoys to hold a one-on-one meeting ahead of the talks yesterday.   Goes without saying, of course, that such direct interaction between the US and North Korea--in a blow-hot, blow-cold mode for many years--could go a long way in bringing down mutual hostilities and helping in resolving the impasse.  As is evident from the reports emanating from that part of the world, North Korea and its Stalinist regime are battling for survival.  Behind the bluff and bluster and the tough talk of teaching a lesson to its enemies lies a helpless country that desperately needs resuscitation.  On the one hand, it displays utter contempt for South Korea, its separated twin, and its phenomenal progress and prosperity.  On the other hand, it seeks aid to save its dying crops and people.  Dear Leader's regime is on its last legs.  Dialogue, and a little help, could bring it to its knees."

WESTERN HEMISPHERE

CANADA:  "Talking To Pyongyang"

The conservative National Post commented (7/29):  "This week, representatives from the U.S., South Korea, China, Russia and Japan sat down with a North Korean delegation....  Although there is little reason to expect that a quick breakthrough will be made on the main Western goal--eliminating North Korea's nuclear weapons and production facilities--the fact that the two sides are talking to one another is a positive sign....  In an ideal world, the White House's hard-line position would be the right one. But alas, once a rogue nation has obtained nuclear weapons, it's hard to apply hawkish ideals faithfully. Since Mr. Kim now has the ability to incinerate Seoul and Tokyo--and is just mad enough to do so if provoked--the West has no choice but to negotiate with him. A war against North Korea would cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides--and America's veiled suggestions that it would risk such a war if Mr. Kim does not stand down are not credible. There is also the fact that Washington and Seoul appear to have found a face-saving way to retreat from the White House's earlier positions: Aid will come not from the U.S., but from South Korea, where assistance programs for the North enjoy broad support. The only things reportedly being asked of the U.S. are a formal guarantee that it will not attack North Korea and the removal of all U.S. nuclear assets from the south. The former is largely symbolic. And the latter is likely moot, since the U.S. says it has no tactical nukes in the country....  The North's demands may change: Mr. Kim's regime is famously erratic, switching from conciliatory diplomatic gestures to apocalyptic threats without warning. Even if progress is made, moreover, it will likely take months to hammer out a deal....  But the U.S. and its negotiating partners really have no choice but to get down to this lengthy diplomatic process. While the optics of negotiating with a totalitarian rogue regime may be unpleasant, it is the only realistic avenue toward ending North Korea's nuclear arms industry."

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