Working-level talks in Beijing this week aimed at resolving North Korea's controversial nuclear problem have attracted little attention, even from those with a vested interest. In South Korea, for example, people are too preoccupied with today's ruling by the Constitutional Court on the impeachment vote against President Roh Moo-hyun. The best thing that can come out of the talks would be a timetable and agenda for the third-round of six-party talks that are supposed to be held by the end of next month. The US does not seem to care much about the talks, either. Engulfed in a crisis over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in a presidential election year, Washington simply cannot dedicate any resources and energy to the nuclear negotiations. Meanwhile, Japan also appears indifferent. Rather, Tokyo is more interested in Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's possible visit to Pyongyang. Only China, as an active mediator, is showing some degree of interest. Such a lacklustre attitude from the related parties is not that surprising. As long as Washington has little intention to make or break a deal in the near future, there is bound to be little enthusiasm. And Washington does not want to deal seriously with the nuclear issue until after the presidential election in November. In South Korea, recent political changes, marked by the advance of the liberal Uri Party and the left-leaning Democratic Labour Party, make the nuclear issue appear almost obsolete. With more progressive members in the National Assembly and the government, Seoul is ready to jump-start inter-Korean exchanges and co-operation. If and when Mr Roh returns to office, he is expected to carry out his engagement policy toward Pyongyang with renewed vigour. But the danger is that if everyone takes the North Korean nuclear issue too lightly, they could suddenly find themselves in another crisis. Lessons can be learned from the first round of talks in the early 1990s, which resulted in the 1994 Geneva agreement. All parties felt relieved, believing the problem to be resolved, but today, the issue has come back to haunt them and tensions have been heightened. In the same way, delays today in the resolution of the nuclear problem will mean the parties concerned will pay a much higher price tomorrow. If that argument is not convincing enough, there is also the worry that the US will adopt hardball tactics after the election, which could lead to another nuclear crisis early next year. For South Korea, which saw its economy badly dented by the nuclear problem last year, that would be a nightmare.