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5th Round (Stage 3) Talks

Outline

Outline
Time and Place February 8~13, 2007 in Beijing, China
Representatives
  • Chun Yung-woo
    Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs
  • Kim Gye-gwan
    Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Christopher Hill
    Assistant State Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Wu Dawei
    Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Kenichiro Sasae
    Director-General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Alexander Losyukov
    Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation

Results

The parties adopted a denuclearization agreement stipulating that North Korea will take initial actions with the eventual goal of dismantling its nuclear facilities; in turn, the other five parties will take corresponding measures.

The parties agreed that

North Korea will

- Shut down and seal its Yongbyon nuclear facility and invite the return of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency;
- Discuss with the other parties a list of all its nuclear programs;
- Declare all nuclear programs; and
- Disable all existing nuclear facilities.

In return,

- North Korea and the United States will start bilateral talks aimed at normalization. Washington will begin the process of removing Pyongyang from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. It will advance the process of terminating application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the North.
- North Korea and Japan will begin bilateral talks to normalize ties.
- The five parties will cooperate in economic, energy and humanitarian assistance to the North.
- The five parties will provide the initial shipment of emergency energy assistance equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) to North Korea. And,
- If North Korea completes disabling all nuclear facilities, the parties will give an additional 950-thousand tons of HFO.

Parties agreed to establish five Working Groups for

- Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
- Normalization of DPRK-U.S. relations
- Normalization of DPRK-Japan relations
- Economic and Energy Cooperation
- Northeast Asian Peace and Security Mechanism (The Parties agreed that all Working Groups will meet within the next 30 days.)

Parties also agreed

- To promptly hold a ministerial meeting to confirm implementation of the Joint Statement of September 19, 2005 and to seek ways to promote security cooperation in Northeast Asia.
- To negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum.

< Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement >

The Third Session of the Fifth Round of the Six-Party Talks was held in Beijing among the People’s Republic of China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation and the United States of America from 8 to 13 February 2007.

Mr. Wu Dawei, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PRC, Mr. Kim Gye Gwan, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of the DPRK; Mr. Kenichiro Sasae, Director-General for Asian and Oceanian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan; Mr. Chun Yung-woo, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs of the ROK Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Mr. Alexander Losyukov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation; and Mr. Christopher Hill, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs of the Department of State of the United States attended the talks as heads of their respective delegations.

Vice Foreign Minister Wu Dawei chaired the talks.

I. The Parties held serious and productive discussions on the actions each party will take in the initial phase for the implementation of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005. The Parties reaffirmed their common goal and will to achieve early denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner and reiterated that they would earnestly fulfill their commitments in the Joint Statement. The Parties agreed to take coordinated steps to implement the Joint Statement in a phased manner in line with the principle of “action for action”.

II. The Parties agreed to take the following actions in parallel in the initial phase:

1. The DPRK will shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment the Yongbyon nuclear facility, including the reprocessing facility and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct all necessary monitoring and verifications as agreed between IAEA and the DPRK.

2. The DPRK will discuss with other parties a list of all its nuclear programs as described in the Joint Statement, including plutonium extracted from used fuel rods, that would be abandoned pursuant to the Joint Statement.

3. The DPRK and the US will start bilateral talks aimed at resolving pending bilateral issues and moving toward full diplomatic relations. The US will begin the process of removing the designation of the DPRK as a state-sponsor of terrorism and advance the process of terminating the application of the Trading with the Enemy Act with respect to the DPRK.

4. The DPRK and Japan will start bilateral talks aimed at taking steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern.

5. Recalling Section 1 and 3 of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005, the Parties agreed to cooperate in economic, energy and humanitarian assistance to the DPRK. In this regard, the Parties agreed to the provision of emergency energy assistance to the DPRK in the initial phase. The initial shipment of emergency energy assistance equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) will commence within next 60 days.

The Parties agreed that the above-mentioned initial actions will be implemented within next 60 days and that they will take coordinated steps toward this goal.

III. The Parties agreed on the establishment of the following Working Groups (WG) in order to carry out the initial actions and for the purpose of full implementation of the Joint Statement:

1. Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
2. Normalization of DPRK-US relations
3. Normalization of DPRK-Japan relations
4. Economy and Energy Cooperation
5. Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism

The WGs will discuss and formulate specific plans for the implementation of the Joint Statement in their respective areas. The WGs shall report to the Six-Party Heads of Delegation Meeting on the progress of their work. In principle, progress in one WG shall not affect progress in other WGs. Plans made by the five WGs will be implemented as a whole in a coordinated manner.

The Parties agreed that all WGs will meet within next 30 days.

IV. During the period of the Initial Actions phase and the next phase ? which includes provision by the DPRK of a complete declaration of all nuclear programs and disablement of all existing nuclear facilities, including graphite-moderated reactors and reprocessing plant ? economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO), including the initial shipment equivalent to 50,000 tons of HFO, will be provided to the DPRK.

The detailed modalities of the said assistance will be determined through consultations and appropriate assessments in the Working Group on Economic and Energy Cooperation.

V. Once the initial actions are implemented, the Six Parties will promptly hold a ministerial meeting to confirm implementation of the Joint Statement and explore ways and means for promoting security cooperation in Northeast Asia.

VI. The Parties reaffirmed that they will take positive steps to increase mutual trust, and will make joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. The directly related parties will negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum.

VII. The Parties agreed to hold the Sixth Round of the Six-Party Talks on 19 March 2007 to hear reports of WGs and discuss on actions for the next phase.

Agreed Minute on Burden Sharing

The United Sates, China, Russia and the ROK, subject to their respective national governments’ decisions, agreed to share the burden of assistance to the DPRK referred to in Paragraph II (5) and IV on the basis of the principle of equality and equity; look forward to the participation of Japan on the basis of the same principle as its concerns are addressed; and welcome the participation of the international community in this process.

Course of the Talks

  • “Good Start”
    The third session seemed to start off well amid hopes for smooth progress as North Korea and the United States had narrowed their differences substantially during talks between their top negotiators in Berlin. Since China circulated its draft agreement among the concerned parties as the third session began, some speculated that an agreement could be had perhaps with as little as the fixing up of a few lines.
  • Energy Deadlock
    However, at the end of the second day of talks, negotiations over the provision of energy aid to North Korea hit a deadlock. North Korea and the other five parties sharply differed on the amount of heavy fuel oil the North should receive. The six delegations worked to narrow the gap, with Pyongyang lowering its demand while the other parties raised their offer. Views on the outlook for the talks differed widely.
  • Last-Minute Agreement
    On February 12, top negotiators traded figures in bilateral meetings held on the sidelines of the main session. In particular, Pyongyang and Tokyo held their first head-to-head meeting of the third session. The United States and North Korea continued their third bilateral meeting past midnight, reaching agreement around three o'clock in the morning.

Key Issues

  • Heavy Fuel Oil
    The parties varied widely on the energy aid issue, with offers/demands ranging from 500-thousand to two million tons of heavy fuel oil. Whereas the North had focused on unfreezing its accounts at Banco Delta Asia (BDA) in the previous session, it pursued the energy issue during the third session for the following reasons: First, Pyongyang began to see progress on the BDA issue in separate bilateral talks with Washington. Second, it was grappling with a serious energy shortage at home. And third, after conducting a nuclear test, it believed it could cash in on a much better negotiating position. Pyongyang used its traditional negotiation strategy of declaring a high price in the beginning and working down to meet the other’s offer.
  • Initial Actions
    The third session began with the concept of “initial actions” which was established during the previous session and elaborated at the Berlin talks. Therefore, although the concept should have been the focal point, the corresponding measures, particularly the energy aid, stole the center of attention as the parties reached consensus on what the initial actions would be. The new agreement differed from the 1994 Geneva Agreed Framework in that it adopted a phased reward system instead of simply swapping a nuclear freeze for energy aid. It also added higher-level denuclearization steps: North Korea's shutting down, disabling and dismantlement of its nuclear facilities and the other five parties’ corresponding measures.

Denuclearization Steps

Freezing This means switching off and sealing nuclear facilities. North Korea can reactivate facilities by simply breaking the seals and switching facilities back on. It will take five to six years to complete dismantlement from this step.
Shutdown This is a step beyond freezing.Maintenance and repairs of sealed facilities are banned.Reactivation will require substantial time and effort. Only a few months short of complete dismantlement.
Disabling This means a permanent shutdown of nuclear facilities including taking technical measures to remove the key reactor component—the nuclear core. Reactivation will require facility reconstruction.
Dismantlement This is the ultimate goal. However, it's a different story if North Korea considers its nuclear facility separate from the nuclear weapons program.

Shouldering Energy Aid to North Korea

How to share the cost of funding the energy aid became a key issue which could encroach on the progress thus far. The United States and Japan kept quiet on the issue hoping South Korea would take the lead. However, Seoul held fast to the principle of equal distribution among the five parties in providing heavy fuel oil (HFO) to Pyongyang.

Each Party’s Position on HFO

- The United States kept quiet
- China worked actively to resolve the matter.
- Japan was unwilling to contribute, unless the issue of North Korea's past abductions of Japanese nationals was resolved.
- Russia was reluctant to contribute, citing a domestic law that prohibited giving aid to the indebted North Korea.
- South Korea adhered to the principle of equal distribution.

Assessment

  • First-Ever Specific Measures
    The biggest achievement in the third session is that the parties were able to adopt an agreement with specific measures for the first time since the North Korean nuclear problem resurfaced. Whereas the previous rounds of the six-party talks had revolved around principles, the new agreement spells out the initial actions toward ultimate dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program. Of course, the burden remains in the fact that, as the parties take each step, they have to make progress in the next level of talks. However, it is a meaningful development that the parties have finally set sail toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
  • Multi-Track Approach
    Establishing five Working Groups to resolve related issues will be a useful tool to move forward. According to the agreement, progress in one Working Group shall not affect progress in other Working Groups. Therefore, each issue will be dealt with separately. In other words, a deadlock on one issue will not hinder discussions of the other ones. The agreement added that “Plans made by the five Working Groups will be implemented as a whole in a coordinated manner” in order to accelerate the implementation process.
  • Political Considerations
    The new agreement provided for high-level involvement by requiring a ministerial meeting. This will engage the political will of the parties to implement the agreement. The new accord also created a stepping stone for the six-party talks to become a venue not only to address the North Korean nuclear issue but other Northeast Asia-related issues as well.
  • Separate Forum on Permanent Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula
    The new agreement has provided for a forum to discuss a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, which by itself may be a complicated issue. The forum may discuss an official end to the Korean War as suggested by U.S. President George W. Bush. It will be more effective to discuss the peace regime along with progress made toward resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.

Prospects and Goals

  • Implementation of the Agreement
    In negotiating with North Korea, the actual implementation of agreed measures has always been a concern. The new agreement will mean nothing if Pyongyang does not take the initial actions it has pledged to undertake. This time, however, the possibility of carrying out the agreement is greater because the initial actions and corresponding measures are knit closely together. Nonetheless, it is difficult to forecast what would happen at the working-level stage—a practical and determining stage.
  • Difficulties in Negotiating on Divided Steps
    North Korea took a strategy of dividing denuclearization into many steps. By breaking the process into as many steps as possible, it aims to maximize benefits from corresponding measures where the other five parties can easily have differing opinions. Therefore, the most important task in subsequent negotiations is to synchronize the denuclearization steps of North Korea and corresponding actions of the other five parties.
  • Separating Nuclear Facilities and Weapons Program
    Similar to its strategy of dividing the denuclearization process into many steps, North Korea may insist on separating its nuclear weapons program from the rest of its nuclear facilities. Pyongyang has developed nuclear weapons despite many difficulties; if it already has nuclear weapons, it is not likely to give them up. Therefore, the North may attempt to negotiate separately on its nuclear facilities and nuclear weapons program. Giving up its nuclear weapons will be the very last denuclearization step for North Korea, which in turn will demand much greater rewards than it will receive from dismantling its nuclear facilities.
  • Long Way to Go
    Achieving the ultimate goal of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula is an extremely difficult task. For instance, just taking a step forward from shutting down to disabling North Korea's nuclear facilities will not be easy. Furthermore, the dismantlement steps and nuclear weapons issue remain to be resolved. At each step, North Korea will push and pull to maximize its gain. Also, there may be unexpected variables such as internal changes in North Korea and other factors that could come into play such as the BDA issue. In addition, fierce competition among the parties for leadership of the Northeast Asian region may arise as another variable.
  • Inter-Korean Relations
    The new agreement has cleared a hurdle in inter-Korean relations. South Korea will be able to resume food and fertilizer aid to the North and reopen inter-Korean dialogue channels. Such developments may lead to Seoul-Pyongyang summit talks after the North Korean nuclear issue is resolved. Domestically, with the approach of the presidential election, inter-Korean relations may become a very sensitive issue.
  • North Korea’s Normalization of Ties with the United States and with Japan
    The new agreement provided for ways to improve U.S.-North Korea relations. It called for the removal of North Korea from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and the unfreezing of the North's foreign accounts. It also opened the door to what Pyongyang badly wanted - direct contacts with Washington - which could lead to improved bilateral ties as North Korea carries out the initial actions and builds trust with the U.S.
    In North Korea-Japan ties, the abductee issue remains a hurdle. Nevertheless, since the North will gain much from energy aid, it should be able to soften its position on the matter. The new agreement opened a possibility for the two sides to discuss the abductee issue head on.
  • Next Talks on March 19
    The next talks slated for March 19 will provide an opportunity to review progress in the month since the agreement. New stumbling blocks, if any, will surface before the talks. Therefore, merely opening the talks on time will mean passing the first hurdle.
  • Shortcomings of the February 13 Agreement
    The agreement stated that the five megawatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon was to be disabled but makes no mention of the unfinished 200 megawatt reactor in Taecheon. Also, its clause calling for North Korea to “discuss with other parties a list of all its nuclear programs…including plutonium” is ambiguous at best. Moreover, the agreement failed to mention another key issue: Pyongyang’s possession of highly-enriched uranium (HEU). These issues may surface as hindrances to the denuclearization process at any time.