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PacNet #42 – The Koreas: No Nuke Talks Till 2005?

There are three problems with the six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear issue. First, they risk confusing form with substance: as if merely getting North Korea around a table is success in itself, whether or not real progress is made on the issues. Second, relatedly, there is a tendency – as suspect in diplomacy as in stocks or currencies – to talk the talks up; as in assurances all summer that regular diatribes from Pyongyang didn’t actually mean no, so the Sept. 30 deadline set last time for a fourth round could still be met. The third problem is that it wasn’t. Talks are better than no talks, and with the U.S. election weeks away it now looks unlikely that there will be any until 2005, when we know who’ll be in the White House till 2008. Roh Moo-hyun says there is no need “to rush things”; Kim Jong-il would no doubt agree.