North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan (L) shakes hands with Clifford Hart, Special Envoy to the Six Party Talks on North Korean De-Nuclearization, as he arrives at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in New York, July 29, 2011 (Jamie Fine/Courtesy Reuters)
Since before the sinking of the Cheonan in March of 2010, the People’s Republic of China has been pushing a three-step formula for resumption of Six Party Talks: resume inter-Korean dialogue, resume high-level U.S.-DPRK contacts through a visit by Vice Minister Kim Kye-gwan to the United States, and reconvene Six Party Talks in Beijing. The first two steps were accomplished in relatively short order at the end of July with a surprising meeting between the foreign ministers and chief negotiators of the two Koreas in Bali on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum and a visit by Kim Kye-gwan to New York a week later for two days of informal dialogue with U.S. officials, including Special Representative Stephen Bosworth, Special Envoy for Six Party Talks Clifford Hart, and Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Robert King. Although the State Department labeled these talks “exploratory and preliminary,” the North Korean side described the talks as “negotiations” while KCNA re-initiated a propaganda campaign calling for a Peace Treaty to end the Armistice.
The next step in the Chinese-formulated three-step plan would be the resumption of Six Party Talks in Beijing, but it seems doubtful that the third step will come as quickly as the first two have proceeded. In fact, there are at least three missing steps in the Chinese three-step plan that must be pursued before it would be possible, in my view, to return to the Six Party Talks, and even then it will be politically impossible for the United States to negotiate a nuclear deal with North Korea that follows the template of the U.S.-DPRK Agreed Framework or the September 19, 2005, Six Party Joint Statement. For this reason, I am advocating a six-step plan for returning to Six Party Talks. The missing steps are as follows:
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