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Six-Party Talks

1st Round Talks


Time and Place Aug. 27~29, 2003 (Beijing, China)
  • Lee Soo-hyuk Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • Kim Young-il Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • James Kelly Assistant State Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs
  • Wang Yi Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Yabunaka Mitoji Director-General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau
  • Alexander Losyukov Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs


Failing to arrive at a statement of agreement, a 'Chairman's Summary' for a next round of talks was drawn up instead.

Main Issues

U.S. - stresses that North Korea give up its program first / expresses reluctance on U.S.-NK bilateral talks

  • Political/economic concessions unnegotiable until North Korea's complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement (CVID) of its nuclear program
  • Rejection of a bilateral U.S.-NK framework for approaching the crisis, bilateral talks for normalization of relations out of the question until North Korea's prior CVID of its program (non-aggression treaty deemed inadequate)

NK - stresses 'simultaneous action'

  • North Korea claims that despite its principles of denuclearization, 'hostile U.S. policy toward North Korea' is forcing its pursuit of nuclear capability for self-defense.
  • U.S. withdrawal of hostile policies is essential to resolving the crisis North Korea requests: U.S.-NK non-aggression treaty / normalization of U.S.-NK relations / lifting of economic sanctions
  • All measures to resolve crisis must take the form of 'simultaneous action'
4-Stage Process Proposed by North Korea ('summary agreement' & 'simultaneous action')
4-Stage Process Proposed by North Korea ('summary agreement' & 'simultaneous action')
North Korea (freezes program) U.S. (concessions)
Announces abandonment of nuclear program ['words for words'] Pledges concessions for abandonment of program
Freezes nuclear materials and facilities
Accepts inspection and supervision
Declassifies North Korea as terror-sponsoring state
Lifts sanctions and economic embargo
Expands humanitarian aid (food)
Provides energy (some 2 million kw)
Resolution of missile issue (Freezes test-launches, halts exports) Normalization of U.S.-NK and Japan-NK relations
Dismantles nucelar facilities Completes construction of light-water reactors

China - deems North Korea proposal 'reasonable' / proposes U.S.-NK bilateral talks

  • Requests made by North Korea (non-aggression treaty, normalization of U.S.-NK relations, and establishment of trade with other states) are justified and reasonable / non-aggression treaty should be approached through bilateral framework
  • Denuclearization of the Peninsula and ensuring security of North Korea regime are issues to be tackled simultaneously
    ※ During the 1st round of the talks, China was generally assessed as successfully fulfilling its role as coordinator / mediator.

South Korea - Presents sequence of 'simultaneous actions'

  • Expresses willingness to faithfully abide by the '6.15 Joint Declaration' and to continue providing humanitarian aid
  • Presents a sequence of 'simultaneous actions', under the principle that the nuclear issue calls for comprehensive efforts

Ex-post Assessments

U.S.-NK - reconfirms incompatibility of views

  • The 1st round of the talks served only to highlight the differences in opinion between the U.S. and North Korea, ending with an agreement to hold another round of talks.

North Korea - questions usefulness of the six-party talks

  • On August 30 (two days after the 1st round of talks had come to an end), the spokesman of North Korea Foreign Ministry comments at a Korean Central Broadcasting press conference that the "six-party talks were mere armchair discussions of no value whatsoever. We have discarded all hope or interest in the talks."
  • He adds, "We have reconfirmed that we have no other choice but to continue fortifying our nuclear capabilities for the purpose of self-defense."

U.S. - increasing dominance of hard-line views

  • While the White House and the State Department deem the talks a success, domestic hard-line the outcome of the talks.
  • U.S. media, citing the August 30 announcement by North Korea, stress the need for a hard-line response rather than analyzing and revising the proceedings of the talks.
  • Caught between two extremes, the Bush administration fails to provide a clear guideline on North Korea-related policies. It becomes known that Kelly, who had led the U.S. delegation, was forced by hard-liners to participate in the talks with no discretionary authority.

China - urges the U.S. to broaden considerations

  • While China deems North Korea's surprise announcement 'negotiable', it criticizes the U.S. for its lack of clarity in its North Korea-related policy.
  • On September 1, Chinese representative Wang Yi remarks that "the single greatest obstacle to resolving the crisis is Washington's North Korea-related policy," and urges the U.S. to consider different options and measures to negotiate with North Korea.