Japan's new prime minister and South Korea's president are maintaining
a firm joint position on North Korea. At a summit meeting, the two
said Pyongyang has much to gain by bold action on nuclear weapons, but
will receive nothing if it holds out.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama Friday at the presidential Blue House in Seoul. Mr. Lee said the two are in harmony on dealing with North Korea's nuclear weapons.
He says both leaders agree on resolving the North Korean nuclear issue without repeating "old patterns" of negotiating. Instead, says President Lee, he and Mr. Hatoyama will discuss a "fundamental, comprehensive way" to solve the problem with their international partners.
South Korea and Japan have taken part in a six-nation diplomatic process for the past six years aimed at getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons. China, Russia, and the United States also are involved. Pyongyang has boycotted the process numerous times, and tested two nuclear weapons.
Mr. Lee describes his proposal as a "grand bargain" for the North. It is seen as an attempt to accelerate the disarmament process by making the North's actions bolder, and the rewards for cooperation bigger.
Prime Minister Hatoyama says Japan backs that approach.
He says Mr. Lee's grand bargain, a package settlement, is correct. He says unless Pyongyang shows willingness to give up its nuclear weapons, the two countries should not provide any aid to the North.
President Lee says he expects North Korea will "carefully consider" the grand bargain.
He says he believes North Korea understands this is, in his words, "the last method we can do."
Many North Korea experts are skeptical about whether Pyongyang will be willing to accept the grand bargain. Some think North Korea will not end its nuclear programs under any circumstances.
Others, like Baek Seung-joo, with the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses here in Seoul, think Pyongyang benefits from the drawn-out six-nation process.
He says North Korea wants to extend the six-nation process into as many phases as possible, so they get something in return for each phase. He says the possibility of North Korea given that up that in favor of a grand bargain is very low.
Another question remains - whether North Korea will actually attend six-party talks at all. North Korean leader Kim Jong Il said this week he "may" return to the six-party talks, contingent on bilateral meetings with the United States. North Korea has often said the nuclear issue is a matter to be handled between it and the United States alone. That is a stance the other nations in the talks oppose.