On the 10th anniversary of the Joint Statement, it’s time for these six countries — China, the United States, Russia, Japan, South Korea and North Korea — to re-enter into serious negotiations and build upon the 2005 Joint Statement. There’s much that has transpired during the past 10 years, mostly in a negative direction. Immediately following the signing of the Joint Statement there was some progress in the implementation of this agreement. North Korea halted its plutonium program at Yongbyan, discussed the monitoring required to verify the North’s denuclearization commitments, and joined the other countries in discussions dealing with security cooperation in Northeast Asia.
Unfortunately, in 2008 North Korea refused to sign a comprehensive monitoring and verification agreement that would have permitted monitors to visit any site in North Korea, any time, with the ability to take samples, interview scientists and review all records dealing with North Korea’s nuclear programs. To date, Six-Party negotiations have not resumed.
During this 10-year period, North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests — in 2006, 2009 and 2013 — and has tested short- and long-range missiles, the most recent in December 2012 when its long-range Taepo Dong missile put a small satellite in orbit. North Korea’s new leader, Kim Jong-un, who succeeded his father in December 2011, has pursued ambitious nuclear and missile programs, enshrining the North’s nuclear program in its constitution.
Tension returned to the Korean Peninsula recently when the North planted landmines at the DMZ that seriously wounded two South Korean soldiers. The South resumed broadcasting propaganda into the North after an 11-year hiatus, and North and South exchanged artillery. The confrontation was peacefully resolved when the North suggested, and the South agreed, to hold high-level negotiations. The North and South agreed to further high-level negotiation, to address the reunion of separated families and other issues. And during meetings on Sept. 7, the North and South agreed that from Oct. 20 to 26, families separated by the Korean War will be reunited. This unexpected turn of events could result in continued, substantive negotiations between the North and the South. The planned reunion of separated families, estimated to affect more than 66,000 South Korean citizens, according the Unification Ministry in Seoul, could quickly develop into an eventual summit between Presidents Park Geun Hye and Kim Jong-un. The North will, however, request that the South resume visits of South Korean citizens to the North’s Mount Keumgang. These visits had provided the North with millions of dollars in revenue. The visits were suspended in 2008 when a North Korean guard killed a South Korean visitor and the South demanded an apology for the killing, which the North never provided.
As North Korea prepares for the Oct. 10 celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Workers’ Party, Kim Jong-un has, to the surprise of many, made a number of conciliatory statements. According to the North’s Korean Central News Agency, Kim Jong-un spoke of the turning point for ties with the South and the prospect for “reconciliation.” Given the rhetoric that normally emanates from the North, these pronouncements are significant.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran required two years of intensive P-5 plus 1 negotiations. The agreement will prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons for at least 15 years, and hopefully for all ensuing years, assuming Iran complies fully with the IAEA safeguards and its Additional Protocol commitments. Although the North Korean situation is different and the North has eschewed any interest in a deal similar to the agreement with Iran, the reality is that North Korea, with nuclear weapons, must be convinced that its security and economic well-being will be enhanced when it implements the Sept. 19, 2005 Joint Statement.
The same energy that the P-5 plus 1 expended on Iran in securing a nuclear agreement should be a model for the five countries working with North Korea to ensure that nuclear negotiations are resumed unconditionally. Indeed, if these resumed negotiations prove futile and North Korea refuses to denuclearize in exchange for security assurances, and economic and energy assistance offered in the Joint Statement, then a reappraisal for dealing with North Korea will be required. But ignoring North Korea and thinking that things will improve without interaction with the North is unrealistic.
Hopefully, the current dialogue between the North and South will facilitate a return to Six-Party Talks.
• Joseph R. DeTrani is president of the Intelligence and National Security Alliance. He previously was the special envoy for Six-Party Talks with North Korea. The views are the author’s and not the views of any government agency or department.