Chapter 6: The Torturous Dilemma: The 2008 Six-Party Talks and U.S.-DPRK Relations, by Shin Yon Kim

Shin Yon examines the progress made in 2008 with regards to the denuclearization of North Korea. Her paper chronicles North Korea’s implementation of key six-party agreements, and analyzes how the shifting power dynamics among the six-party members affected this process throughout the year. With North Korea failing to meet the December 2007 deadline to submit a full declaration of all its nuclear activities, the tone for the 2008 six-party process was contentious from the start. Despite these rocky beginnings, the United States was able to negotiate a compromise on the format of the declaration, and North Korea submitted its nuclear accounting to the United States and to China, the host of the Six-Party Talks, in late June. As an added gesture, North Korea also toppled a cooling tower at its Yongbyon nuclear facility.

Despite progress made on disablement, Shin Yon points to deadlock over the issue of verification. Verification was seen as critical to ensuring the accuracy of North Korea’s nuclear declaration, and the United States pushed forward a rigorous draft verification protocol which warranted objections from North Korea, as well as China and Russia. The issue of verification caused North Korea to stall disablement measures, and the U.S. failure to delist North Korea from the list of state sponsors of terrorism (SST) spurred North Korea to not only to halt disablement measures, but began to reverse them as well. Although further concessions were made in order to come to an agreement on verification and prompt North Korea to resume disablement measures, including the delisting of North Korea from the SST, Pyongyang later denied making any such agreement. Amid a grim outlook for sustainability on the deal itself, the six parties gathered in Beijing in early December for the year’s last round of talks, only to fail to come to an agreement on a verification protocol. Shin Yon argues that the latest failure of the Six-Party Talks to adopt a written verification protocol seems to portend an even more precarious path ahead in bilateral and multilateral negotiations with North Korea.