The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is continuing to strengthen its diplomatic position in its negotiations with the United States, based on the solid strength of its military position, including its proven nuclear deterrent, and its equally strong political unity.
A meeting of the heads of delegation to the sixth round of the six-party talks was held in the Chinese capital, Beijing, between 18-20 July. The six parties are the DPRK, south Korea, the United States, China, Russia and Japan. Bilateral talks were also held between the DPRK and USA, and the DPRK and Japan.
At this latest round of six-party talks, a general consensus was reached, with the DPRK reiterating “that it will earnestly implement its commitments to a complete declaration of all nuclear programmes and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities”.
In turn, economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 950,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) will be provided to the DPRK.
In these talks, the DPRK successfully resisted attempts by the US to impose a deadline on its commitment to declare all its nuclear programmes and disable its existing facilities. The wrangling over this issue prolonged the talks by an extra day. Instead, the US was forced to agree to the DPRK’s consistent position that the peace process on the Korean peninsula should develop on the basis of “action for action”.
In order to proceed on this basis, it was agreed that a series of working groups would meet before the end of August. These include those tasked with the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, the normalisation of DPRK-US relations, normalisation of DPRK-Japan relations, economy and energy cooperation, and a Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism.
A further meeting will be held in Beijing in September “to hear reports of all Working Groups and work out the roadmap for the implementation of the general consensus”, and this will be followed as soon as possible by a meeting at ministerial level. (For full text, see Xinhua online, 20 July 2007)
By successfully sticking to its guns, and resisting US pressure for the setting of arbitrary and one-sided deadlines, the DPRK has ensured that it will only take steps towards disarmament on the condition that its security is guaranteed and its pressing economic and energy needs are met.
The country’s top nuclear negotiator, Kim Gye Gwan, told reporters that the DPRK will need to receive lightwater reactors before the eventual dismantlement of its nuclear facilities. (Xinhua, 21 July 2007)
This was precisely what the United States agreed to deliver in the Geneva Accord that it signed with the DPRK in October 1994. Years of hardline pressure by the Bush administration on the DPRK has served only to return the USA to the position it was forced to concede 13 years ago. The only real difference is that the DPRK has used the intervening years well to develop a self-reliant and proven nuclear deterrent for self-defence.
Release of frozen funds
The Beijing meeting reflected an intensified pace of activity following the settlement of the frozen DPRK funds held in the Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in the autonomous Chinese region of Macao. The US had frozen these funds – and thereby effectively frozen the DPRK out of the international banking system – reflecting the anger of the neo-conservative faction in Washington at the concessions that the USA had been forced to make in the joint statement of the six-party talks issued on 19 September 2005.
After the BDA funds had been remitted from Macao to Pyongyang via the USA’s Federal Reserve Bank and both state and private banks in Russia, the USA’s chief negotiator, Christopher Hill, made his first visit to Pyongyang.
Closure of Yongbyon
At the beginning of July, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi visited the DPRK and met with the country’s top leader, Kim Jong Il, who told him that “recently there have been signs that the situation on the Korean peninsula has eased”. Comrade Kim added that “all the parties should implement the initial actions” of the disarmament agreement reached in February. The initial steps include the shutdown of the DPRK’s main reactor in exchange for economic aid. (Quoted by Xinhua, 4 July 2007)
Accordingly, as soon as the first batch of the promised energy aid arrived from south Korea, the DPRK shut down its main nuclear facility at Yongbyon.
And, speaking in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 18 July, Mohamed al-Baradei, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), confirmed that the DPRK had now shut down all five of its nuclear facilities. (Xinhua, 18 July 2007)
In assessing these developments, it is important to recall that the DPRK’s nuclear facilities were previously frozen for a number of years, following the signing of the Geneva Accord in October 1994, until the USA finally ripped up that agreement. This freeze on the part of the DPRK did not prevent the country from developing its nuclear deterrent when the threat from the USA became more acute.
Concession is not surrender
The DPRK has demonstrated, therefore, that, whilst all sides inevitably make concessions in a negotiations process, it will make no concession on principles that would place in jeopardy the DPRK’s sovereignty and security and the Korean people’s hard-won socialist gains.
So long as imperialism still exists, socialist countries will face the need to act with the greatest care and flexibility to defend and expand their freedom of manoeuvre and to enhance their security. As Lenin put it:
“A revolutionary would not ‘agree’ to a proletarian revolution only ‘on the condition’ that it proceeds easily and smoothly, that there is, from the outset, combined action on the part of the proletarians of different countries, that there are guarantees against defeats, that the road of the revolution is broad, free and straight, that it will not be necessary during the march to victory to sustain the heaviest casualties, to ‘bide one’s time in a besieged fortress’, or to make one’s way along extremely narrow, impassable, winding and dangerous mountain tracks.” (‘Letter to American workers’, 20 August 1918, by V I Lenin, Collected Works Volume 28)
Whilst the prospect of the DPRK relinquishing its nuclear deterrent, which has been developed in the face of relentless US hostility, and has required huge sacrifices on the part of Korean working people, may naturally cause some concern, socialist countries, by their nature, wish, so far as possible, to devote their resources to the peaceful work of developing their national economy and providing a better life for the people. As soon as the DPRK conducted its nuclear test last October, its Foreign Ministry asserted:
“Although the DPRK conducted the nuclear test due to the US, it still remains unchanged in its will to denuclearise the peninsula through dialogue and negotiations … The DPRK clarified more than once that it would feel no need to possess even a single nuke when it is no longer exposed to the US threat after it has dropped its hostile policy toward the DPRK and confidence has been built between the two countries.”
The future of the six-party talks
In the next rounds of six-party talks, the DPRK will be pressing the USA for removal from the State Department list of “terrorist supporting states”, ceasing to apply the Trading with the Enemy Act, and other steps to end economic and financial pressure and to demonstrate goodwill. Such steps are not simply a matter of bilateral relations but are essential if the DPRK is to be able to develop cooperation and leverage assistance from the major international financial institutions.
The DPRK has secured victories both when it has boycotted the six-party talks and when it has participated in them. At a crucial stage of the Chinese revolution, Comrade Mao Zedong explained such an apparent contradiction well:
“How to give ‘tit for tat’ depends on the situation. Sometimes, not going to negotiations is tit-for-tat; and sometimes, going to negotiations is also tit-for-tat. We were right not to go before, and also right to go this time; in both cases we have given tit for tat.” (‘On the Chungking negotiations’, 17 October 1945)
The Korean nuclear issue is, in essence, a confrontation between socialism and imperialism. It will surely go through very many more twists and turns in the future. Whatever form these might take, it will remain the responsibility of the working-class movement to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the DPRK in common struggle.
Speaking of the negotiations with Germany that led to the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, Lenin wrote, “in neither case would we be entirely escaping some sort of imperialist bond, and it is obvious that it is impossible to escape it completely without overthrowing world imperialism”. (‘On the history of the question of the unfortunate peace’, Collected Works Volume 26)
Our greatest responsibility to the Korean and other victorious proletariats, therefore, must be to intensify our efforts to settle accounts with our own bourgeoisie. As Comrade Kim Il Sung wrote:
“The barriers of imperialism which surround a socialist country should be torn down so that the dictatorship of the proletariat can become a worldwide system; and one country’s isolation as the socialist fortress within the encirclement should be ended with the formation of strong ties of militant solidarity of the international working class and the oppressed peoples of the world. Only then can it be said that all imperialists’ armed intervention will be prevented and their attempt to restore capitalism frustrated and that the ultimate victory of socialism has been secured.” (‘The great anti-imperialist cause of the Asian, African and Latin American Peoples is invincible’ by Kim Il Sung, Works Volume 23)