North Korea has been suspected to develop nuclear weapons since early 1900’s, and it ended up withdrawing from Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 2003. The Six Party Talks were launched in August 2003 to find a peaceful resolution of ending North Korea’s nuclear program. The six participating states involved China, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Starting in 2003 until 2007, there has been total 6 rounds of negotiations, and culminated in an agreement that North Korea agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons in exchange for fuel aid and better relations with the United States and Japan in 2005.
However, in 2006, North Korea conducted its first nuclear test and in 2009, North Korea proceeded its satellite launch which was the second nuclear test, despite international pressure not to do so. The launch failed and it landed in the Pacific Ocean. Many countries worldwide as well as the UN Security Council condemned the launch as a violation of Security Council resolutions. As a result of North Korea’s repeated missile tests and provocations, the Six Party Talks were discontinued and North Korea walked out of negotiations in 2009.
The world has concluded that there’s no more ways they can disarm North Korea which is the most unpredictable country, and the Western states’ hope hinged on China to control its ally. But Chinese officials have refused to participate in sanctions against North Korea. On February this year, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Chinese leadership to persuade North Korea to abandon nuclear weapons and come back to the Six Party Talks.
Interestingly, China which had been reluctant to go against to North Korea has recently taken a strong stance on it. China has cut off oil supply to North Korea from January to June this year, and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, bluntly told a North Korean envoy that his country should return to negotiations. Kyodo News reported on 14 September that China clarified its position that they will keep cutting off oil and other aids until North Korea ends its nuclear program and returns to the diplomatic talks.
Based on what we have discussed in class, we can come to think that the negotiation between six countries has failed due to North Korea’s commitment problem. Such effort of the other five members of the Six Party Talks to disarm North Korea seems to have not gone smoothly, and North Korea is getting more isolated among the international community as its relations with one of few allies, China, has declined. Whether the bargaining solution of “tying hands” will work now depends on North Korea’s further steps.