North Korea

Nuclear deal with Iran can act a model to rein in North Korea

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 2:03am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 2:03am

North Korea's restarting of its nuclear reactor at Yongbyon and plans for more missile tests prove the time for international complacency has to end.

China, as a responsible world power and neighbour, understands the urgency and is hosting a forum with officials from the nations involved in stalled six-party talks.

But that process has failed to bring stability and security to the region and a more effective approach is necessary. The deal struck with Iran in July could serve as a worthy starting point.

Beijing-sponsored talks involving the two Koreas, China, the US, Japan and Russia have been suspended since 2009 and the North conducted a third nuclear test in 2013.

An agreement in 2007, after four years of negotiations, for the shutting down of all nuclear facilities in exchange for fuel oil and a movement towards normalisation of relations with the US and Japan is in tatters.

Pyongyang's warning that it is ready to use atomic weapons against the US "any time" can be dismissed as just more rhetoric; its resumption of operations at Yongbyon and preparations for missile launches have to be taken seriously.

There is a sense that the North is ending its belligerent ways in favour of reasoned dialogue.

After a standoff with the South across their demilitarised border that had threatened to escalate into armed conflict, the sides last month struck a landmark deal.

They agreed to end confrontation, hold talks, resume reunions of families separated since the Korean war and hold civilian exchanges.

But as significant as the deal was, such measures will take time to implement and there can be no trust while the North maintains its nuclear programme.

The two-day forum in Beijing that starts today aims to find a way of restarting the six-party talks.

But negotiations that began in 2003 have failed to stop North Korea's weapons proliferation. Instead of production being halted, there has been a flaunting of agreements and UN bans.

A refusal by the North and US to negotiate with one another has ensured other involved countries can only sit on the sidelines and wait

The Iran pact offers a way forward. While North Korea is a markedly different situation, the approach of realistic goals backed by thorough inspections rather than a forced scrapping of nuclear programmes makes greater sense.

Sanctions, rhetoric and threats have not worked.

The North has shown it is willing to talk and the moment has to be seized upon. Using the lesson of Iran, a new strategy has to be formulated.