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ASIAN PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 29, No. 2, 2005, pp. 231-246. Commentary WHY THE SIX PARTY TALKS SHOULD SUCCEED Peter Van Ness Obstacles to Cooperation in East Asia A successful Six Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear programs can serve the interests of all the participants, includ­ ing the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the United States. But, contrary to the Bush administration's expec­ tations, "success" cannot come in the form of a "coalition of the willing" that forces North Korea to agree to America's unilateral demands. As they stand now, the Talks are a coalition of the unwilling. There are two conditions that must be met for success. First, the DPRK must hold back from actually testing a nuclear device, because once a country tests, it is likely to be much more difficult to convince its leadership to give up its nuclear pro­ grams. Second, both the DPRK and the United States must be prepared to engage in the give and take necessary to achieve a peaceful, negotiated conclusion to the crisis. The other four par­ ticipants (China, Russia, South Korea, and Japan) must convince the United States and the DPRK to modify their initial negotiat­ ing positions sufficiently to achieve agreement.1 1. These comments are my own conclusions from participating in a con­ ference on the Six Party Talks, co-hosted by professors Ha Yong-Chool of Seoul National University and Donald C. Hellmann from the Univer­ sity of Washington, Seattle, and held in early June 2005 at Mount Kumgang in North Korea. My thanks to colleagues at the meeting for their 232 Peter Van Ness There is much at stake in the Six Party Talks.* 2 Behind the scenes and away from the newspaper headlines, there is a strug­ gle going on over the future of East Asia. The choice is a right wing, with-us-or-against-us Bush vision versus a more live-andlet -live, multilateral, ASEAN-type accommodation among diverse governments with different interests and priorities. How this struggle will be played out can best be seen in the Six Party Talks and in the plans for the East Asian Summit, scheduled for Decem­ ber 2005 in Kuala Lumpur. The rise of China, on the one hand, and the militancy of the Bush "neoconservative" revolution, on the other, push and pull at the web of ASEAN-based cooperative arrangements in the region. Strategic initiatives from East Asia are being shaped and reshaped by the Sino-U.S. dynamic, the most important bilateral relationship in the region. Some analysts see this relationship as a contest between hege­ mons or as a balance of power; but China is not a hegemon (at least not yet), nor is Beijing attempting to balance U.S. power.3 Instead, the United States and China offer competing visions of Asia's future,4 differing understandings about the role of war in resolving disputes among strategic adversaries, and alternative approaches for achieving international stability in the region. Japan, potentially a major player, remains hesitantly deferen­ tial to American leadership, but most other countries in the region want to engage both the United States and China. They want no confrontation between those two powers. They value good rela­ tions with both, and don't want to have to choose between the two. At the same time, they are no less concerned about the rise of China than is the United States (as a trade and foreign-investment important insights. Any errors, omissions, or misinterpretations are solely my responsibility. 2. For a more extended analysis of the dynamics of the Talks, see Peter Van Ness, "The North Korean Nuclear Crisis: Four-Plus-Two—An Idea Whose Time Has Come," in Mel Gurtov and Peter Van Ness, eds., Con­ fronting the Bush Doctrine: Critical Views from the Asia-Pacific (London and New York: RoutledgeCurzon, 2005). 3. Peter Van Ness, "Hegemony, Not Anarchy: Why China and Japan Are Not Balancing US Unipolar Power," International Relations of the AsiaPacific , vol. 2, No. 1 (2002). 4. Peter Van Ness, "China's Response to the Bush Doctrine," World Policy Journal, vol. 21, No. 4 (Winter, 2004/05), pp. 38-47. Why the...


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