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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 26)

All News 07:11 January 26, 2016

Five-way talks
Park's proposal to leave out NK shows poor judgment

Does President Park Geun-hye really believe that a five-nation meeting can work better than the six-party talks in disarming North Korea? She has suggested that Seoul hold talks with Washington, Beijing, Moscow and Tokyo and leave out Pyongyang, which would dismantle the six-party talks.

Park's proposal shows a lack of understanding of the history and significance of the talks. Although the talks have been stalled since 2008, they remain one of the few options the relevant parties have to explore a peaceful solution to security concerns in the region in the face of the North Korean nuclear program.

If she was not sufficiently informed about this, then her foreign affairs team shares the blame for the hasty proposal. Park's suggestion seemed to have come without proper consultation with her foreign affair team, as Cheong Wa Dae and Foreign Ministry officials rushed to explain that Korea would still be devoted to maintaining the six-party frame, while working closely with the five parties to press North Korea on regional security concerns.

Cheong Wa Dae later explained that the remark came out of the President's desperation to bring progress in the North Korean nuclear issue. It is nonetheless disappointing that such an unrealistic and ill-timed measure was presented as part of "creative" approaches to the issue that Foreign Minister Yun Byun-se often talk about.

It is hard to believe that such a diplomatically sensitive issue was brought forth by the President during a New Year briefing on foreign affairs and a unification agenda without proper consultations with relevant parties. Park suggested a method that China would oppose just as tension has been mounting due to their differences on sanctioning North Korea for its fourth nuclear test. Beijing immediately resisted Park's proposal on Jan. 22, saying it was hoping for six-party talks to be resumed soon. Park's recent remark on the possibility of deploying the terminal high-altitude area defense (THAAD) system also received a negative response from Beijing.

Park showed excessive dependence on China at the briefing to take "effective measures to make Pyongyang realize the futility of nuclear development." Park also called on China to take an active part in curbing North Korea's ambitions. There is nothing creative about depending on foreign powers in dealing with our own problems. That kind of attitude has not helped curb Pyongyang's nuclear ambition.

If Park really seeks a "creative alternative" to resolving the issue, she must first return to the dialogue and negotiation with Pyongyang, not show signs of giving up on talking at such a sensitive time. Korea must realize that blaming China and depending on the U.S. has limitations in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Spirit of dialogue is what the six-party talks stand for and they should be consistently respected.
(END)

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