North Korean talks enter fourth day

December 21, 2006

Beijing, China — North Korea is refusing to renege on its demand that financial sanctions against it be lifted, before it dismantles its nuclear program.

While the negotiations are continuing, they risk coming to a standstill if either side does not change its position. Following North Korea’s October 9 nuclear test, the US wants the Koreans to dismantle their nuclear program. The Koreans, in turn, want financial sanctions, imposed last year, to be removed.

Undoubtedly, progress is being made, as the talks have entered a fourth day of negotiations and have been extended until Friday. Likely, the US and North Korea are reluctant to reveal what concessions they are willing to make, to maintain their strong bargaining advantage. The US has effectively shown that sanctions do sometimes work — North Korea would not be stubborn about the financial sanctions, if they were not a problem for the regime. North Korea, on the other hand, has shown that hard power still makes others listen. Prior to the nuclear test in October, no one was rushing to the negotiating table; now North Korea is an “urgent problem,” according to US negotiator Christopher Hill.

The issue at hand will not be resolved by Friday (or the weekend), when the current round of talks is set to conclude, but progress may indeed be made, with possible symbolic gestures from both the US and North Korea.

The talks on North Korea’s program recommenced on Monday, following their interruption over a year ago, when financial sanctions were imposed against North Korea.

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