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Group Paper Assignment for ASEAN and the Regional Dynamic of Northeast Asia

Ahmad Naufal Da‟i (0706291174)
Rifki Ahmad Zaelani (0706291376)
Tangguh (0706291426)
Yudha Virwanto Bagus Triadi (0706291483)


Analysis on the Six-Party Talks Dilemmatic Process in Solving the North Korea’s

Nuclear Threat, 2003-2009


The Six-Party Talks are originally intended to end North Korea's nuclear program

through a negotiating process involving 6 countries (China, the United States (US), North and

South Korea, Japan, and Russia). Since the talks began in August 2003, the negotiations have

been hindered by diplomatic standoffs among individual Six-Party member states,

particularly shown by subsequent USA and North Korea nerve-breaking battles. This paper

seeks to explore both the dynamism of pragmatic calculations and the ardent political factors

contributing to the North Korean nuclear disarmament talk debacles which we felt

significantly represented the problems and challenges of the East Asian security management.

Even with the involvement of USA and Russia on the diplomatic table we still believe that

the main subjects and the nuances of the problem and are still East Asian.

In this paper we would like to ask question: “Did the national interest cause the Six-

Party Talks to lack the environment conducive for cooperation in its dynamic as a cooperative

security thus hindering its progress and efficacy?” In answering this question, we will

elucidate the paper as follows: First, we are going to review the past historical events

concerning The Six-Party Talks as a quick review to the status quo in the institution. Second,

1 Latin proverb, translated as: “...not through violence, but words alone.” A famous quotation
formally used by Martin Luther King, Jr.
we are going to endow the discussion with several theoretical approaches and concepts,

Third, we are going to analyze the six involved party‟s tendency and interest in this board

game of hard politics.

Six-Party Talks in Chronological Events

Six-Party Talks is a series of multilateral talk between North Korea, South Korea,

China, the US, Russian Federation, China and Japan, aimed at ending North Korea‟s nuclear

program. 2 It started in 2003 to negotiate about North Korea‟s nuclear program. In 2002,

tensions between North Korea and the US increased due to intelligence reports on North

Korea increasing its Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU).3 The US then called for North Korea‟s

nuclear disarmament, but it was responded by North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, with the

undoing of 1994 Agreed Framework which ended the nuclear tension between the two

countries at the time4 and also leaving the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Fearing the worst

would happen, the Chinese government held a trilateral meeting in April 2003 among North

Korean, the US and Chinese diplomats. But the US refused to meet bilaterally with the North

Korean and said that the US viewed this matter as “Neighborhood Problem,” which made the

Chinese expand this meeting to six countries by adding South Korea, Japan and Russia, thus

creating the Six-Party Talks, which held their first meeting in August 2003 in Beijing.5 Few

numbers of talks took places between 2003-2005, resulting a September 2005 Agreement, in

which Pyongyang agreed to abandon its nuclear ambition, rejoin the NPT and allow the

IAEA inspector to enter the country and inspect the nuclear reactor; and in return, North

Korea received food and assistance from other members, a chance to normalize relations with

2 Council on Foreign Relation,, September 22th, 2009
7:39 AM
3 John S. Park, “Inside Multilateralism: the Six Party Talks,” park.pdf, September 22th, 2009 1:15 PM
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.

US and Japan and also negotiation for peace agreements in the Korea Peninsula. 6 However,

this good situation did not last long, as the US accused North Korea for money-laundering in

a Macau-based bank, Banco Delta Asia 7. The bank then froze the North Korea‟s fund,

resulting in their outrage. North Korea abandoned the-newly-agreed pact and conducted a

missile and nuclear test in July and October 2006 consecutively. Beijing once again pressed

North Korea to rejoin the talks, and they rejoin in February 2007, which produced a

Denuclearization Plan, in which North Korea had to freeze its nuclear program in sixty days;

in return, North Korea will have their fund de-frozen and receive aid from other members. 8

North Korea agreed to this plan and started shutting down Yongbyon nuclear reactor in July

2007. In mid-2008, North Korea updated their progress on shutting down nuclear program to

the other five members of the Talks, and in October 2008, the US removed North Korea from

the State Sponsors of Terrorism List.9

Theoretical Approaches: Security Community and Realist Institutionalism

Cooperative Security

Cooperative security is a type of international security cooperation that applies the

approach of “security with,” not “security against.” It includes broad issues of security:

social, economy, political, military and environmental. Gareth Evans argues that cooperative

security effectively captures the essence of all concepts of multidimensional security:

political and diplomatic disputes, economic underdevelopment, trade disputes and human

rights abuses.10 Cooperative security seeks to create an environment conducive for

6 Council on Foreign Relation, op. cit.
7 Ibid.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Gareth Evans, “Cooperative Security and Intrastate Conflict,” Foreign Policy, No. 96

(Autumn, 1994), pp. 7
cooperation by not using deterrence but reassurance and pursue confidence-building

measures. As Gareth Evans puts it, “The term tends to connote consultation rather than

confrontation, reassurance rather than deterrence, transparency rather than secrecy,

prevention rather than correction, and interdependence rather than unilateralism.” 11 It also

underlines the importance of preventive diplomacy as well as second track diplomacy.

Cooperative threat reduction (CTR) program

As a cooperative security means beyond the Six-Party Talks, Joel S. Wit et. al. (2005)

proposed that cooperative threat reduction (CTR) programs be a part of this effort. This

program could serve five related objectives: 1) incorporating them into negotiations would

enhance the chances for peaceful settlements and sustained implementation by providing

additional incentives for North Korea; 2) reducing uncertainty, enhance transparency and

bolster verification, critical objectives in dealing with Pyongyang; 3) ensuring that North

Korea remains free of WMD over the long-term, not only through cooperative elimination

efforts, but by redirecting the underlying infrastructure, such as facilities and scientists, away

from military uses; 4) establishing beachheads of cooperation which may have a spillover

effect, helping to break down the North‟s isolation and to integrate it into the international

community; 5) encouraging Pyongyang to modernize its civilian economy, in part by

shrinking its military sector and redirecting key resources to peaceful uses. CTR programs

could be effectively used to bring to bear the technical and financial resources of other

countries in working with North Korea to achieve key dismantlement tasks mandated by a

diplomatic settlement; including multilateral programs to ship out of country North Korea‟s

weapons-useable plutonium and newly irradiated spent fuel, dismantlement of Pyongyang‟s

operating reactor and reprocessing facility and environmental cleanup activities including

dealing with low-level nuclear waste; ensuring the redirection of important resources

11 Ibid.
previously used in the North‟s nuclear program to development of the civilian economy; and

reducing the threat posed by other North Korean weapons programs. 12

Realist Institutionalism

The realist view in this is matter is represented by the work of Kenneth Waltz, in which

he believed that the possibility of states getting involved in an international

institution/cooperation is possible supposed the prospect of benefit from gaining is visible.

Anarchy in this point drives the states to form an alliance and cooperation to secure its own

ends. However since states agreed to join on a basis of national interest, should the interest be

threatened by the same institution states also can easily quit or in the very least hamper the

decision making system in the institution to be delayed indefinitely and weakened. 13 Waltz

emphasized that State has a big room for maneuvering since the state is fundamentally the

most important actors in decision making. Therefore an international institution will always

face the dilemma whether it has to be accommodative and compromising to maintain positive

acceptance from the state actors or it has to be a strong and decisive which might trigger the

consequence of a state‟s opposition and dissenting voice. This dilemma will surely weaken

the efficacy o an international institution. 14

Institution building ultimately for realist is not about the normative issues. It is one

definitive issue, the national interest. Realist will not bother to do one institution building by

trying to foster values and norms; it is futile since for realist value is put behind the material

12 Joel S. Wit, Jon Wolfsthal and Choong-suk Oh. The Six Party Talks and Beyond:
Cooperative Threat Reduction and North Korea, A Report of the CSIS International Security
Program (Washington: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2005)
13 Waltz, in Evan Luard, Basic Texts of International Relation , (Houndmills, Basingstoke

Hampshire: Macmillan Academic and Professional Ltd., 1992) pp. 171
14 Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics (Philippines: Addison – Welsey
Publishing Company, 1979) pp. 49 - 51
power not the other way around.15

National Interest: In Concert or Discord?

Korean Nuclear problem is a complex. It is not only about the development of nuclear

technology in that authoritarian country only, it amounts also to the security issue of neighbor

countries which is being threatened by the territorial proximity to Korea. This background

was the reason why those countries gathered to discuss the problem and to negotiate the

denuclearization of Korean peninsula, thus Six Party talk was created. However there are

factors which kept on hampering the Six-Party Talks, each state‟s own national interest.

Basically there are five countries involved in the Six-Party Talks, in the following we would

like to analyze two factors of their „national interest‟, first is their immediate priorities and

second is their worst case scenario in discussing the North Korea as a threat.

North Korea as a nation is not that prosperous. The economic performance of North

Korea ranks as one of the worst in terms of peripheral development, foreign investment and

commerce. This country entangled also in a deep poverty where it has been one of the major

causes many North Korean fled from this country to the South. The immediate priorities from

this country is to sustain the life of the Kim regime as was seen from how Kim Jon Il

repeatedly assert its willingness to dismantle its nuclear weapon whenever the continuation

seemed not feasible.

There are also three countries in territorial close proximity with North Korea, China,

South Korea and Russia. Simply put, the nuclear threat of North Korea is biggest felt by these

countries. Also another factor that brings them to the negotiation table is the economic issue.

15 Grasa, Rafael and Costa, Oriol, "Where Has the Old Debate Gone? Realism,
Institutionalism and IR Theory" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest
Political Science Association, Palmer House Hilton, Chicago, Illinois, Apr 20, 2006 <Not
Available>. 2009-05-25
The existence of Korea‟s nuclear threat indeed has severe consequences to their economy. 16

South Korea itself is a country which technically still in a war with North Korea, continuing

what had happened in the peninsula at 1951-1953. Since then, South Korea had undergone a

rather different course of fate compared to North Korea whereas this country is regarded as

one of the wealthiest country in Asia. 17 The obvious economic superiority can be seen from

how this country is having more than tenfold of international trade volume, GDP, and per

capita income than their northern counterpart.18 South Korea along with US and Japan had

been donating foreign aid to north Korea, partly because they need to pay the „nuclear

ransom‟ north Korea often erected and partly because this country need to keep the status quo

of north Korea‟s corrupted and abrasive government still exist. It‟s a horrific for them to

imagine the influx of thousands of North Korean refugees if something went bad in the

communist country, such burden that they will like to evade.

China in this case shares a rather unique role. In past China have been the sole

guardian and ally for the North Korean to keep the Americans and South Koreans at bay,

including its involvement in the 1951-1953. Arguably this country also still needs the

importance of North Korea as a buffer zone to guard them with a direct front of South

Koreans and US influence. However a nuclear threat is indeed a nuclear threat in which

China too must have felt the risk of having a voluptuous nuclear country near its backyard.

Yet, the fear is less compared to other countries; China has not been the sole target of North

Korea‟s hostility and military projections. In many repertoires the North Korean only

regarded US, South Korean, and Japan which obviously ignoring the Russia and China.

Finally, just like South Korea, China seems concerned to the issue of refugee, that‟s one of

the reason why China prevented many harsh sanction and punishment be opted to respond

16 John S. Park, op. cit.
17 Ramkishen S. Rajan & Sunil Ronggala, Asia in the Global Economy: Finance, Trade &
Investment ( Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 2008) pp. 156
18 Ibid, pp. 170

Korea‟s mounting danger. After all we must not forget that the fear of sudden flow of

refugees was the reason why China joined the fight in 1951-1953 and restored the Korean

communist government there.

Now about Russia, this country is also unique in its relation to Korean debacle. Russia

is said to have some legal and clandestine business which help the small nation to acquire the

devastating weapon in the first place. Russia is contributing not only to the uranium supplies

but also to the increasingly sophisticated nuclear technology although it is still blurry to put

the Russian convicted in helping North Korea to possess nuclear weapon. Russia also has the

problem o refugee, one which it will not like to be bothered. Russia also as a „reincarnation‟

of the USSR might politicize the issue of North Korea against the US in a geopolitical level.

Aside from that problem we also have to carefully examine the two other country‟s

internal motive, the US and Japan which obviously might not be threatened by refugee

problems but might still be annoyed by north Korean‟s nuclear capacity. The US has a

traditional position as a threat to North Korea. In past USA had almost entirely leveled the

North Korean communist government and in the recent times (an always) USA always be the

biggest advocate for more harsh and stringent sanction being given to north Korea, be it in

UN or in the multilateral gathering. Not to mention that in the Bush regime North Korea is

regarded in the list of terrorist sponsor countries which totally worsen the bilateral relation

between the two countries. All in all, US kept on insisting North Korea to shut its nuclear

ambition in the position as a hegemonic county. USA insists that it will only neutralize the

relation between the two countries if North Korea be denuclearized meanwhile Kim Jong-Il

wants the otherwise.

Lastly, the Japanese position is quite simple. They don‟t want to get caught in the

middle of a possible nuclear conflict. Nuclear bomb was a disaster wrecked the country in the

past, one which many Japanese will never forgets. Japanese are not worried with refugee

problems, they are not having problem if North Korea is pushed farther to the corner with

stringent and harsher sanction. That‟s why Japan is one of the vocal voices advocating bolder

action alongside with US.19

Six-Party Talks Analyzed: Cooperative Security Failure?

In this part, the Six-Party Talks as a means of cooperative security will be analyzed,

whether the Talks could fulfill the requirements of a cooperative security or not. John S. Park

stated that the six principal players of the Six-Party Talks didn‟t agree on the sequence and

manner in which they seek the objectives of ending North Korea‟s nuclear program because

of domestic policy constraints, differing priorities and conflicting historical analogies among

each of the countries, resulting in vastly differing perspectives to the multilateral negotiating

table. 20 The “security with” approach hadn‟t been executed as it should. Park noted that the

US had been the main obstacle to South Korea‟s plan seeking gradual integration and

reunification of the two Koreas, for they were so adhere to tailored containment. In Japan, a

vocal group of Japan Defense Agency officials had been advocating a preemptive strike

capability against North Korea as a deterrent. They stated that abductee issue constricted

North Korea policy. The US and Japan‟s stance in the Six-Party Talks had been marked with

hostility toward North Korea, while other participants had been siding with North Korea:

South Korea seeks gradual integration and reunification of the two Koreas, while Russia had

been open for business with North Korea despite the nuclear impasse. 21

Inside the Six-Party Talks, we couldn‟t find environment that was conducive for

cooperation. The four Northeast Asian states are mutually belligerent due to their historical

backgrounds and developments. China is despised because they were communists. Japan and

19 Michael A. Needham, “Responding to North Korea’s Missile Provocation,” Web Memo, No.
1142 July 5, 2006.
20 John S. Park, op. cit.
21 Ibid.

Korea also hate China since they had experienced China‟s occupation (Japan since the 7 th

century and Korea since the 13th century). Japan is despised for their colonialism (1905 to

1945) in Northeast and Southeast Asia. North Korea is despised for their communist

government, totalitarian dictatorship, belligerent and provocative behavior. South Korea is

relatively not so despised as much as the others, but some might resent the fact that they‟re so

much under the influence of the US. The other two parties are even more belligerent towards

each other: The US and The Russian Federation have a very long history of enmity even

before the Cold War.

The Six-Party Talks also failed apply deterrence rather than reassurance. Precisely, it

was deterrence by punishment, due to the US imposing financial sanctions on foreign banks

that facilitate North Korea‟s illegal counterfeiting activities and Japan also imposed some

economic sanctions on North Korea: first in 2006 banning all North Korean imports and

stopping its ships entering Japanese territorial waters; then, after North Korea‟s rocket launch

in April 2009, extending economic sanctions by one year, including the ban on imports

imposed in 2006; and then also in April 2009, tightening oversight of fund transfers from

Japan to North Korea and deciding to strengthen a ban on selling luxury goods to North

Korea, including pricey beef, caviar, alcohol and cars.22

The joint statement released by the Six-Party Talks participants on October 3rd, 2007

also failed to compose confidence among participants. Bruce Klingner noted that it showed

insufficient provisions for compliance: “The one-page joint statement contains inadequate

provisions to ensure that North Korea abides by its pledge to fully denuclearize. North Korea

did affirm its commitment to „provide a complete and correct declaration of all its nuclear

programs‟ by year‟s end. But, the agreement did not delineate the level of information to be

provided, most notably any requirement to identify the type, number, and location of nuclear

22Axel Berkofsky, “Japan-North Korea Relations: (Sad) State of Play and (Sad) Prospects”
(Paris: Ifri), pp. 23-24
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weapons and fissile material.” 23 The fact that no verification to ensure compliance marked

that the Six-Party Talks failed to maintain transparency within its participants, marking

another failure to one of the principles of cooperative security.

The Six-Party Talks also failed apply consultation rather than confrontation. It was due

to the US‟s strategy for securing the dismantling of North Korea‟s nuclear program by 1)

terminating the Agreed Framework; 2) withholding U.S. reciprocal measures until North

Korea takes steps to dismantle its nuclear programs; and 3) imposing financial sanctions on

foreign banks that facilitate North Korea‟s illegal counterfeiting activities; not negotiating

directly with North Korea. Critics also had charged that the US perceived the Six-Party Talks

as an international coalition to apply diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea.24

Economic sanctions from Japan also marked the confrontation signals.

And while cooperative security needs interdependence, not unilateralism, Larry A.

Niksch stated that American leadership was still needed by the virtue of their interests,

capabilities and experience. Despite that, the US failed to exercise their leadership, mainly in

Bush Administration. Their strategy been criticized by China, South Korea and Russia for not

negotiating directly with North Korea. Those countries voiced opposition to economic

sanctions and the potential use of force against Pyongyang; and increasingly expressed

support for North Korea‟s position in Six-Party Talks. North Korea also had always widened

their gap with the US by their two long boycotts of the Talks and their assertion that they

would not dismantle or even disclose their nuclear programs until light water reactors were

physically constructed in North Korea. Critics also increasingly charged that despite its tough

rhetoric, the Bush Administration gave North Korea a relatively low priority in U.S. foreign

23 Bruce Klingner, “North Korea: Worrisome Gaps in Six-Party Talks’ Joint Statement,” in
WebMemo (Published by The Heritage Foundation), No. 1655 October 4, 2007
24Larry A Niksch, “CRS Report for Congress: Received through the CRS Web; North Korea’s
Nuclear Weapons Program: Updated October 5, 2006” retrieved from September 22nd, 2009 1:31 PM
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policy and took a passive diplomatic approach to the nuclear issue and other issues. 25

Gregory J. Moore (2008) also judged that US policy toward North Korea was a failure for

several reasons: 1) the US didn‟t prevent North Korea from acquiring and testing a nuclear

weapon; and 2) the US hadn‟t prevented North Korea from transferring its nuclear technology

to Iran, Pakistan and Syria in recent years. And the sources to these were 1) refusal to

continuation of the Clinton-era Agreed Framework principles, which Moore called ABC

(Anything But Clinton) approach to foreign policy; 2) neoconservative takeover of American

foreign policy exercising U.S. policy process with a shared view of the world Moore called

“democratic peace theory‟s shotgun wedding with offensive Realism on steroids;” 3) Bush

administration‟s tendency not to trust experts in their various fields of expertise; and 4) a

serious division within it between Secretary of State Colin Powell and the neoconservatives

on how to deal with North Korea.26

This failure happened despite that American leadership being one of immediate steps to

be taken to use CTR program properly. By all these points, we conclude that


Our conclusion is twofold. One, the national interest did have a significant influence to

continually hamper the Six-Party Talks. Two, the Six-Party Talks wouldn‟t make an

instrument for a cooperative security in preventing the threat of North Korean nuclear

weapons program since it lacked the environment conducive for cooperation. Also the diverse

political intrigues and national interest did make the situation harder. So either the US should

lower down its standard or North Korea then should be less demanding.



APPROACH” in ASIAN PERSPECTIVE, Vol. 32, No. 4, 2008, pp. 9-27.
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