| U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Thursday that Washington is ready to sign a non-aggression treaty with North Korea. Although he made a condition that Pyongyang should be determined to denuclearize itself and comes to legitimate negotiating table, it was the first time that a U.S. state secretary mentioned its willingness to sign a non-aggression treaty with Pyongyang during a news conference. In the past, the U.S. rejected the North`s call for a non-aggression treaty, saying that it had no precedence of signing such a treaty with other countries. Kerry also said on the day that Washington is not seeking a regime change in Pyongyang.
The U.S. and North Korea recently had a series of "track two" contacts, a kind of informal diplomacy involving government officials and non-officials, in Berlin and London to discuss ways to resume the six-party talks on Pyongyang`s denuclearization and improve bilateral relations. From the U.S. side, former officials of the State Department, including Stephen Bosworth, former representative for North Korea Policy, attended the talks, while Ri Yong Ho, the North`s chief envoy to the six-party talks, and other officials participated. It is likely that Kerry`s latest remarks on the North reflects the progress in North Korea-U.S. dialogue. Leon Sigal, director at the U.S. Social Science Research Council, said it was certain that Pyongyang intends to return to the six-party talks.
Washington and Pyongyang reaffirmed their commitment to normalizing bilateral relations through the Sept. 19, 2005 joint statement and the Feb. 13, 2007 agreement. As agreed, Washington deleted North Korea from its State Sponsors of Terrorism list in 2008. However, Pyongyang conducted three nuclear tests, claiming that it had no other choice because of Washington`s "hostile policy" toward the North. If the U.S. threats justify the North`s nuclear armament, Pyongyang should take Kerry`s non-aggression remarks as a turning point for its reconciliation with the U.S. A non-aggression agreement is the strongest security measure that hostile nations can draw up.
The North`s nuclear and missile development is the biggest instability factor in East Asia. China understands that the U.S. is strengthening its alliance with South Korea and accelerating its missile defense system because of the North. It is Pyongyang`s nuclear armament that forced Seoul and Washington to make their tailored deterrence strategy. China, the chair country of the six-party talks, should take advantage of Kerry`s remarks to bring the North to the negotiation table. Hasn`t Beijing argued that Pyongyang`s nuclear abandonment and improved Washington-Pyongyang relations are necessary for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula?
At a time when the inter-Korean exchanges are cut off, except the Kaesong Industrial Complex, Seoul should get an accurate grasp of the background for Washington`s reconciliatory remarks toward Pyongyang. A thorough coordination between Seoul and Washington would make it more likely that their North Korea policy will succeed.