By Park Si-soo
There are signs that the six-party talks to end North Korea’s nuclear program could soon resume after a two-and-a-half-year hiatus.
Chief nuclear envoys from North Korea and the United States are expected to hold a second meeting to discuss the resumption of the long-stalled dialogue in Geneva later this month, officials said Tuesday. Other representatives of the two sides will have three other meetings afterward to deal with non-nuclear issues.
Analysts say these serial contacts will lead the United States to abandon or bend its rigid stance on the resumption of the talks.
While the United States pledged it would not agree to reopen the multilateral denuclearization talks unless North Korea fulfills the preconditions set by Washington, Pyongyang has suggested it may offer a moratorium on nuclear testing if the dialogue resumes.
Evans Revere, former president of The Korea Society and Asian expert at the U.S. State Department, said during a conference in Seoul that the likelihood of the six-party talks reopening in the near future is still less than 70 percent, but the probability keeps increasing. Revere said the ball is now in the court of the North, and the United States is awaiting its reaction.
The upcoming Pyongyang-Washington negotiations on resuming efforts to recover remains of U.S. soldiers unaccounted for from the 1950-53 Korean War is expected to give a further momentum, experts say. The recovery operation has been suspended for six years amid souring diplomatic ties between the two sides.
In a brief announcement Monday, the Pentagon said negotiations would begin Tuesday in Bangkok, Thailand. The Pentagon said they will address a “stand-alone humanitarian matter” and are not linked to other issues. But experts here say this will eventually help mend frayed relations between the United States and the North.
The Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue to be held in Hawaii on Oct. 26 and 27 is receiving media attention for the same reason.
Though it’s an unofficial forum, many ranking diplomats of the two Koreas and the United States will be present. Among the participants are Kim Hong-kyun, South Korea’s chief envoy on inter-Korean relations and Kurt Campbell, U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs. It is not yet known who from the North will attend the meeting.