|Kim Jong Il|
North and South Korea took preliminary steps to continue a dialogue between the two nations today, which would then be followed by another round of six-party talks (meetings involving both Koreas, their neighbors, and the US). While this is definitely a positive sign that N. Korea will finally apologize for the sinking of a S. Korean navy ship and the shelling of an island, most are rightly skeptical of any meaningful, lasting agreement.
The recent breakthrough is largely due to pressure from the Chinese President Hu Jintao, who is currently on an official visit here. China is probably the only nation that has leverage against N. Korea, since it the nation that the dictatorship in Pyongyang trades most with. But the Chinese also have strong interest in not making any progress, providing them a kind of buffer zone against a sea of neighbors who are all increasingly and aggressively balancing against the rising behemoth.
This makes diplomacy that much harder in the region since China is really the only country with sway over N. Korea, and is in no hurry to rid the region of really their only valuable partner. Surrounded by South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, India, Russia, Indonesia, Australia, and America all working to counter Chinese growing influence in the area, N. Korea provides an obvious asset.
While it is well and good President Jintao made a gesture towards the peace process, when the day is over we’ll probably just be right back where we started. Much like the recent diplomatic breakthrough with Iran, there is really only a marginal possibility of a breakthrough – the best we can do is to simply cross our fingers.
Washington Post: S Korea accepts N Korean proposal for defense talks