Six-Party Talks, Towards the Next Round

Following vice premier Li Keqiang’s visit to the Korean Peninsula, Chinese media coverage of the possible resumption of the Six-Party Talks has been optimistic. From China Daily:

Vice-Premier Li Keqiang wrapped up his three-day visit to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) on Tuesday amid renewed hopes for the stalled Six-Party Talks following the DPRK top leader’s latest offer of fresh nuclear negotiations.

Adding to the renewed optimism is the progress in Geneva where US and DPRK representatives on Tuesday concluded two days of talks on Pyongyang’s nuclear program.

[…]In his meeting with Kim, Li noted that the DPRK adopted a series of active measures this year to maintain dialogue and contact with relevant parties. It has reiterated its support for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks, without preconditions, and to the denuclearization of the peninsula.

China supports the DPRK’s efforts to create conditions for quickly restarting the nuclear talks, and to ease tension on the peninsula, Li said.

A recent report from Xinhua also expresses confidence that this week’s talks between the US and North Korea are a step towards normalizing relations and restarting the nuclear negotiations.

China Wednesday welcomed the progress the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States have made in their second round of high-level dialogue.

“We have noticed the reports about the second round of the DPRK-US high-level dialogue, and China welcomes the progress have been made,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said at a press briefing.

[…]Both officials from the United States and the DPRK said Tuesday progress was made on some points after two days of direct talks in Geneva.

A report from Reuters, however, says that the conclusion of the Geneva based talks brought no major breakthroughs:

“We narrowed differences on several points and explored our differences on other points. We came to the conclusion that we will need more time and more discussion to reach agreement,” [Ambassador Stephen] Bosworth said.

In the cautious world of U.S.-North Korean diplomacy, the comments were relatively upbeat. But U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters in Washington, “while there’s been some narrowing of differences, we haven’t had any breakthroughs here and significant issues do remain.”

Despite assessments of a lack of major breakthroughs, any movement towards a continuation of the talks halted as North Korea walked away from the negotiation table in 2009 can be seen as a step in the right direction. From an April 14, 2009 article in the New York Times:

North Korea, angered by a United Nations rebuke of its recent missile launching, declared on Tuesday that it would permanently pull out of nuclear disarmament talks and restart its nuclear program. It also expelled United Nations inspectors from the country.

[…]White House spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said North Korea’s threat to abandon multiparty talks and reactivate its Yongbyon nuclear reactor represented a “serious step in the wrong direction.” He urged the North Korean government to return to the bargaining table.

The Six-Party Talks began in 2003 after North Korea announced its withdrawal from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), causing serious global concern. For more background on the issue, see past CDT coverage of the talks. Also see a recent CDT post on Li Keqiang’s visit to the peninsula.