When you don’t know what to do with a problem, punting it to a committee is usually a safe option. It buys time to come up with an answer if nothing else. That is what China has done with North Korea’s most recent outburst of belligerency in calling for international six-party “emergency talks” to be held in Beijing in early December.
The six would be the same sextet that have been fitfully trying to deal with Pyongyang’s nuclear program — the two Koreas, the U.S., Russia, Japan and China. Those talks have been stalled since April, 2009. Neither South Korea nor Japan have shown much enthusiasm for going along with China’s latest proposal; the U.S. and Russia are still to be heard from, but are likely to be as non-committal.
Meanwhile, the chairman of North Korea’s parliament, who is close to his country’s leader, Kim Jong Il, has been invited to Beijing next week. With the four days of joint U.S.-South Korea naval exercises now underway in the Yellow Sea and North Korea, according to South Korean press reports, deploying surface-to-surface missiles on launch pads in the Yellow Sea and readying land-based surface-to-air missiles, a bit of firm two-party talking between China and North Korea might be the most effective — and most needed — emergency diplomacy.