Monday, January 22, 2007

Progress in U.S. Talks With North Korea?

Sources: N. Korea Claims Progress in US Talks, North Korea Talks Could Unlock Potential for Regional Integration, North Korea Talks End Fruitlessly

Although Christopher Hill, the chief US nuclear negotiator, only acknowledge that talks with North Korea were making progress, reports from Pyongyang referred to certain agreements made during discussions with U.S. diplomats. Some view that either way, the gap between the U.S. and North Korea is so large that the mere fact that discussions were had at all is definite progress. Hill has offered Pyongyang a package of energy and economic aid and security guarantees in exchange for its agreement to abandon its nuclear weapons program. It was reported that the atmosphere of the discussions were generally positive and sincere. However, the talks have overall ended without official resolution.
Today, a meeting between U.S. Treasury officials and North Korean financial authorities will commence talks regarding the U.S.'s financial sanctions imposed on North Korea, following accusations by Washington in September 2005 that North Korean companies were counterfeiting U.S. currency. Analysts observed that the crackdown essentially put a halt on North Korea's ability to earn hard currency. The Bush administration holds to its policy that the U.S. refuses to negotiate with Kim Jong-il's regime, despite the talks that are due to be held this week.
Some hold the hope that the international talks regarding North Korea's nuclear program could constitute the beginning of economic and regional integration. The talks, which took place in Berlin, brought together Japan, China, South Korea, North Korea and the U.S. The main aim of the talks were to create incentives for North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

1) Should the U.S. lift its financial sanctions on North Korea to create more incentive for Pyonyang to agree to drop its nuclear program?
2) Should the U.S. abandon its policy against bilateral talks with North Korea in order to engage in these negotiations?
3) What do Japan, China, and South Korea stand to gain or lose depending on the outcome of these negotiations?

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