The Lost Year: Nuclear Escalation and the Absence of Six-Party Talks, by Zander Lanfried

There was little progress in North Korea’s nuclear disarmament through the Six-Party Talks in 2009. After a rocket launch and second nuclear test early in the year, North Korea seemed to be willfully provoking the international community. This position was suddenly tempered in the second half of the year as North Korea sought engagement with the United States and invited Stephen Bosworth for talks in Pyongyang. While the Six-Party process has led to some achievements in the past, mistrust, divergent objectives among the six parties, and other issues have slowed the pace of progress. Although North Korea initially rejected the idea of ever returning to Six-Party Talks after UN sanctions were imposed on it for its nuclear test, it softened its stance and now appears open to further discussion through the Six-Party framework. Despite U.S. claims to the contrary, North Korea’s willingness to participate in discussions is driven more by internal politics than by external pressure. Should Six-Party Talks resume in the future, a host of problems await the participants, with no clear solutions.

“The Lost Year: Nuclear Escalation and the Absence of Six-Party Talks,” is an excerpt from Part IV of the 2009 SAIS U.S.-Korea Yearbook.

Zander Lanfried is a first-year M.A. candidate at SAIS concentrating in Korea studies. He received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 2002. After living in Thailand for two years, he moved to Seoul, where he taught literature and other subjects until 2009.