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New Report Calls for Washington-Pyongyang Talks

Suzanne Presto | Washington 15 June 2010

In a new report, the Council on Foreign Relations, or CFR, is calling for the United States to take a more active role in dealing with challenges posed by North Korea, with recommendations that include bilateral talks about missile development as well as consultations with China about North Korea.

The Council on Foreign Relations says the United States should focus on three areas with regard to North Korea: preventing horizontal proliferation -- the spread of nuclear weapons technologies from the communist nation to other countries or groups; stopping vertical proliferation -- the build-up of North Korea's missile arsenal; and de-nuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

Korea analyst Scott Snyder at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations is Director of the CFR's Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward the Korean Peninsula.

He says North Korea's missile development program is an urgent issue that the United States should address with bilateral talks.

"The vertical proliferation issue is really focused on North Korea's own missile development capacity, and that is where we mention the possibility of pursuing a U.S.-DPRK dialogue on missiles," Snyder said.

Snyder says certain conditions would have to be met in advance of bilateral talks. For example, North Korea and South Korea would need to work through issues linked to the recent sinking of a South Korean warship, which most analysts say was due to a North Korean submarine attack.

Snyder also says that South Korea's support of U.S.-North Korean dialogue would be critical for regional cohesion. He points out that Washington and Pyongyang previously discussed North Korea's missile development activities outside the six-party nuclear talks. In 1999, Pyongyang agreed to a moratorium on testing long-range missiles, but it resumed such tests in 2006.

But Balbina Hwang at the National Defense University here in Washington says that just as North Korea's nuclear program requires an international response, so too does North Korea's missile program.

"Now, what worries me here is that essentially they seem to be saying to go back and revive where we left off in the 1990s because the Clinton administration approach was a bilateral approach," Hwang said. "And I think that was one of the problems -- that uniquely bilateral approach, I think, is not the best way to address the issue."

Hwang praises the CFR task force for addressing vertical and horizontal proliferation. But she says that after reviewing the report's recommendations, she does not see new or creative approaches to dealing with North Korea.

The report's other suggestions include the passage of a U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement that would show support for Seoul and decrease its reliance on China. Another recommendation calls for increased emphasis on the importance of China's role in ensuring regional stability.

CFR Task Force Director Scott Snyder says the situation is urgent and requires a fresh approach.

"The concern that we flag in the report is the possibility that the status quo could lead to de facto acceptance of North Korea as a nuclear weapons state. And we see that development as destabilizing to the region," Snyder said.

In another effort to bolster regional stability, the report calls for increased humanitarian assistance to the North Korean people, with calls for greater accountability and transparency.



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