Readying North Korean negotiations

December 16, 2006

Christopher Hill, the US negotiator for the North Korea nuclear talks says he is ready to talk to his North Korean counterpart. The BBC reports that Hill has once again iterated the US unwillingness to accept North Korea as a nuclear power.

North Korean negotiator Kim Kye-gwan has confirmed that North Korea is using its nuclear advance strategically, saying “the problem can be resolved” once the US stops being hostile to the regime. The Koreans realize that they currently hold the upper hand in the negotiations, and it will be hard for the US to persuade North Korea to give up their bargaining chip. Interestingly enough, Hill has not said that North Korea must give up their arms for negotiations to begin, as had been implied in previous US statements.

The meeting between Hill and Kye-gwan is meant discuss the talks before they begin on Monday in Beijing. This is pre-negotiation for each side to make its position clear. Thus, the US may indicate that security guarantees are possible if the Koreans cooperate on halting their nuclear program. The Korean side will also dictate what it ideally wants. The pre-negotiation will allow for both sides to have a better idea of what the other side wants, as negotiations will be complicated with the presence of four other states in Beijing. While Japan and South Korea are likely to go along with the US position, Russia may cause surprises as it has economic ties with North Korea, as does China.

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