Case for 3-Party Talks


The North Koreans recently test fired a missile, the Pukguksong-2.

Maybe this is a violation of the UN Security Council resolution, maybe not. Curious, though, that all 5 permanent members of the Security Council have giant arsenals of nuclear missiles, and North Korea gets a lot of grief for testing one rocket without a warhead on it…

But if the test violates the resolution then let the wheels of the international system turn…

Meantime, it is especially easy for me to conclude that the Six Party Talks will always be doomed to failure for two reasons.

First, the Six Party Talks include the US and Japan, and those two countries unfortunately cannot lower the temperature in the pressure cooker of the Korean peninsula. The US has tens of thousands of troops stationed in South Korea. So on one level, the US is part of the problem (at least for North Korea, and that counts).

The US never should have led a UN intervention into Korea in the first place. Let us assume North Korea would have taken over the entire peninsula in 1950. It would not have evolved as a cornered regime, and instead North Korea would have evolved along a path closer to that of China – a single-party state, but with a flexible, legalistic model, with an underlying market economy, and with largely cooperative relationships with the West.

If the US withdraws its military from South Korea, and if Japan and Russia back away from the issue, then the problem of the Korean peninsula will be solved by China and North and South Korea. Or it will not be solved. But I am guessing it will be solved.

The second reason the Six Party Talks are doomed to failure is because, well, if my father Stephen Bosworth, as Special Envoy to North Korea, could not solve this problem then the problem, as framed, has no solution.

Anyone who knew my father well – including the North Koreans – recognized that he ranked among the best, brightest and most honorable of American career diplomats. And arguably at the top of that pile. He was tested as Ambassador three times in three difficult situations.

In reality, under the Six Party framework, the best that can be hoped for is a tacit acceptance of the status quo. Nothing will change for the better, only for the worse.

It is time to move to a Three Party framework.

Yeah, let the Chinese and Koreans sort it all out. They probably will. Why stand in their way?


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