The Six-Party Talks and North Korea's Denuclearization: Evaluation and Prospects


  • Tae-Hwan Kwak

    1. Eastern Kentucky University
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      This article is a revised version of the paper originally delivered at the 51st Annual Convention of the International Studies Association, 17–20 February 2010. The author expresses his sincere thanks to Professor Seung-Ho Joo, Dr John S. Park and Professor Jay Parker for their helpful suggestions and comments.


The six-party process for North Korea's denuclearization has long been stalled since the Six-Party Talks (SPT) failed to agree on a verification protocol in early December 2008. The DPRK officially stated on 10 February 2005 that it already possessed nuclear weapons. It now wants to be recognized as a nuclear power. The North Korean nuclear issue, a key obstacle to the Korean peace process, needs to be resolved peacefully through the six-party process. The author has argued over the years that while the six-party process is the best means to resolve the North's nuclear issue, bilateral US–DPRK talks are equally important to a peaceful and diplomatic resolution of the DPRK's issue. The peaceful resolution of the North's nuclear issue is prerequisite to building a peace regime on the Korean peninsula and regional peace in Northeast Asia. The author has two specific goals: (i) to evaluate the stalled SPT for denuclearizing the Korean peninsula since December 2008; and (ii) to make policy recommendations for continued denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in the framework of the SPT. The first part of this article examines DPRK's denuclearization process up to the point when the SPT failed to adopt a written verification protocol in December 2008. Since then, the six-party process has been stalled. The second part discusses the impact of the DPRK's rocket launch in April 2009 and its second nuclear test in May on the SPT. The third part evaluates the DPRK's new proposal for peace treaty talks and its new conditions for returning to the SPT. Finally, this article proposes key issues on agenda to be negotiated at the next SPT and some policy recommendations for achieving denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.