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Six-Party Talks

4th Round (Stage 2) Talks


Time and Place Sep. 13~Sep. 19, 2005 (Beijing, China)
  • Song Min-soon Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
  • 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
  • Sasae Genichiro Deputy Director-General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs
  • Alexander Alexeyev Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs

Outcomes : Agreement on a Joint Declaration of 6 articles

The text of the joint statement of the six-party nuclear talks in Beijing is as follows:

1) The six parties unanimously reaffirmed that the goal of the six-party talks is the verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner.
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning at an early date to the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (NPT) and to IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) safeguards.
The United States affirmed that is has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons.
The ROK (South Korea) reaffirmed its commitment not to receive or deploy nuclear weapons in accordance with the 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, while affirming that there exist no nuclear weapons within its territory.
The 1992 joint declaration of the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula should be observed and implemented.
The DPRK stated that it has the right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The other parties expressed their respect and agreed to discuss at an appropriate time the subject of the provision of light-water reactor to the DPRK.

2) The six parties undertook, in their relations, to abide by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations and recognized norms of international relations.
The DPRK and the United States undertook to respect each other's sovereignty, exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.
The DPRK and Japan undertook to take steps to normalize their relations in accordance with the (2002) Pyongyang Declaration, on the basis of the settlement of unfortunate past and the outstanding issues of concern.

3) The six parties undertook to promote economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade and investment, bilaterally and/or multilaterally.
China, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Russia and the U.S. stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to the DPRK. The ROK reaffirmed its proposal of July 12, 2005, concerning the provision of 2 million kilowatts of electric power to the DPRK.

4) Committed to 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.
The six parties agreed to explore ways and means for promoting security cooperation in northeast Asia.

5) The six parties agreed to take coordinated steps to implement the aforementioned consensus in a phased manner in line with the principle of ''commitment for commitment, action for action.''

6) The six parties agreed to hold the fifth round of the six party talks in Beijing in early November 2005 at a date to be determined through consultations.

  • Realizing verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula
    ※ Resolution to observe and realize the 1992 Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration
    - DPRK ? To abandon all nuclear weapons and ongoing nuclear weapons programs
    To resume safeguard agreements with the NPT and IAEA as soon as possible
    - US ? To reconfirm that the Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons
    Resolution to practice nonaggression toward the DPRK
    - ROK ? To reconfirm that the Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons
    Resolution to stand by the 1992 Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Declaration
  • Respecting the DPRK's rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy
    - The matter of providing the DPRK with light-water reactors to be addressed at a 'suitable time'
  • Normalization of relations with the Western World
    - Measures for the mutual respect of US-DPRK sovereignty, peaceful coexistence, and normalization of relations
    - Normalization of DRPK-Japan relations through the Pyongyang Statement (settling historical disputes)
  • Promising the DRPK with economic cooperation and energy aid
    - Strengthening bilateral/multilateral economic cooperation in the fields of energy, trade, and investment
    - Confirmation of ROK-US-Japan-Russia-China willingness to provide the DPRK with energy
    - Reconfirmation of ROK's proposal of direct channeling of power (2M kW) to DPRK (Jul. 12, 2005)
  • Negotiations for establishing peace in the Peninsula
    - Korean Peninsula peace treaty to be negotiated through a separate forum
  • Observing the 'words for words, actions for actions' principle
    - Agreement to take 'mutually coordinated measures' in accordance with this principle
  • Agreement to hold 5th Round of the Six-Party Talks early in November, in Beijing - Specific date to be decided upon through mutual consultation

Proceedings and Key Issues - the ‘Scope of CVID’ and ‘light-water reactor’

Marked US-DPRK differences on light-water reactors

  • Fierce confrontation and lack of concessions by both the US and DPRK on the rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy once threatened to scuttle the talks, but persistent bilateral negotiation and conciliatory efforts by the ROK and China have resulted in an agreement.
    ※ Key topics and development of US-DPRK debate

    - The DPRK stated ahead of the talks that "no nation needs outside authorization in order to enjoy its rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy', and requested "the provision of light-water reactors in exchange for its abandonment of graphite-moderated reactors" during the General Meeting held on Sep. 15th.

    - The US responds that "the matter of light-water reactors is absolutely out of the question".

    - At a press conference held on Sep 16th, the DPRK denounces the US and threatens that it "will not cease nuclear activities unless provided with light-water reactors".
    ※ Meanwhile, the DPRK has also emphasized that "due to the concern expressed by the US, any acquired light-water reactors will be jointly managed and open to inspections".

Conciliatory efforts by the ROK and China

  • The ROK delegation demonstrated diplomatic finesse at critical junctures of the talks, preventing a breakdown in negotiations.
    - Delegation Chief Song Min-soon attenuated US-DPRK disagreement by remarking that "the window of opportunity is open for the light-water reactors" (Sep. 15th). President Roh supported this by stating that "rights to the peaceful use of nuclear energy may be respected if certain conditions are satisfied" (Sep. 16th).
    - In a Minister-level opening speech (Sep. 14th), Unification Minister Jung Dong-young urged the DPRK's cooperation for producing a Joint Declaration and communicated to top DPRK officials US Delegate Chief Hill's message that "Washington was of clear resolve to normalize relations with the DRPK".
    - Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon contacted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressing ROK consent to China's 5th draft joint statement and urging a change in the US position.
  • The ROK also directed efforts toward reaching an "agreement on principles" through actively proposing conciliatory offers when US-DPRK disagreement concerning the light-water reactors grew serious.
    - The ROK remark about a "window of opportunity" contributed to the parties’ circumventing of the light-water reactor issue.
  • China, the host state, continually contacted both the US and DPRK and combined persistent persuasion and aggressive argumentation to urge each party to make strategic decisions.
    - Concerning its 5th draft, China urged the US and DPRK to reply "only in the affirmative or negative"; the ROK officially announced approval of the draft.
    - In a telephone conversation with Secretary of State Rice, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing emphasized that "the US must make a decision".
  • The New York Times and the Washington Post named China the "victor" of the talks, citing the central role it played in bringing about the current results.

Bridging of differences and the agreement on Joint Declaration

  • Up until the Delegate Chiefs' General Meeting on Sep. 18th, the US maintained that China's draft was "ambiguous" and the DPRK also expressed opposition. Although a breakdown of the talks was feared at one point, conciliatory efforts by the ROK and China led to the announcement of the Joint Declaration on Sep. 19th.
    ※ The US and DPRK persisted in bilateral negotiations, even amid the high tension over the light-water reactor issue.
  • Finally, the two parties agreed to authorize the DPRK's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, conditional on the DPRK's total CVID (complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement) of all nuclear materials, its return to the NPT, and submission to IAEA inspections.
  • This outcome seems to be the result of reluctance by both the US and DPRK to bear responsibility for having contributed to the talks’ dissolution, as well as the DPRK's strategic decision to offer "total CVID" in exchange for more concrete concessions that may become feasible, given the US willingness to compromise.

Ex-Post Evaluation

Agreement on a Joint Declaration and the principle of denuclearizing the Peninsula

  • The ambiguous slogan of the "denuclearization of the Peninsula" circulated during the 1st through 3rd rounds of the talks has gained a measure of concreteness by directly addressing "the DPRK's abandonment of its nuclear program".
  • It has also gained some binding power through by articulating the principles of DPRK observance of international norms, US assurance of the DPRK's security, and ROK-DPRK observance of the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Peninsula.

DPRK decision to offer "total CVID" of nuclear materials

  • Considering the fact that the DPRK's nuclear capability was its sole source of leverage in negotiations with the US after the fall of the Soviet Union and other socialist regimes, this decision is highly worthy of notice.
  • The Joint Declaration includes articles on all concessions such as the normalization of relations, provision of energy, and economic cooperation. Furthermore, the Declaration also mentions "respecting the DPRK's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy" and "addressing the matter of providing light-water reactors at a suitable time". The DPRK most likely signed the Joint Declaration because of these clauses, which offered a "window of opportunity" for the light-water reactors.

US concedes on the light-water reactor issue

  • The US made a concession in stating that the DPRK's right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy may be approved and that the matter of light-water reactors may be discussed. It has gone as far as expressing the willingness to provide energy aid to the DPRK, reflecting a different stance compared to previous rounds of talks.
    ※ Some believe that the DPRK proposal to leave the management of the light-water reactors to a committee of six states prompted the US to make such concessions.
  • The US reconfirmed its stance of non-aggression toward the DPRK, precluding the DPRK argument that it needed nuclear capabilities to deter potential US aggression.

Establishing a peace regime on the Peninsula , normalization of US-DPRK, DPRK-Japan relations, and organizing a Peace Forum

  • Through agreeing to organize a separate forum for discussing the establishment of a peace regime on the Peninsula, a basis has been established for pursuing long-term talks on the issue.
  • The possibility of the normalization of the DPRK's relations with the US and Japan as pursued through separate bilateral talks may contribute to dissolving the Cold War power structure still prevalent on the Peninsula.
  • This may serve as a stepping stone to: final resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue -> dissolution of Cold War structures and establishing peace on the Peninsula -> realizing the vision of a "Northeast Asia Security Cooperation"

Ambiguous wording leaves room for disputes

  • Although an agreement on the 'words for words' principle was reached, US-DPRK differences on the specifics of the 'actions for actions' principle, such as the sequence, procedure, and content of the actions, may spark further disputes.

    - Scope of CVID: US-DPRK disagreement may recur during the process of designating the specific facilities and materials to be subject to CVID; the US will attempt to be as inclusive as possible while the DPRK will attempt to limit the scope of CVID.
    - Time to provide the light-water reactors: The DPRK will continue to request "light-water reactors first" while the US will maintain that reactors will come only after the DPRK's "abandonment of nuclear programs"
  • Within the ROK, a dispute may arise concerning the overlap between the light-water reactors and the ROK's "important proposal" of energy supply to the DPRK.
    ※ The ROK government has stated that the light-water reactors and KEDO are "two separate enterprises", and that its "important proposal" would replace the KEDO light-water reactors. The government has added that the supply of electricity would last only until the construction of light-water reactors is complete in the DPRK.


  • Although the Joint Declaration reflects a general agreement on the denuclearization of the Peninsula, the road to taking concrete actions for security assurances, economic assistance, and the normalization of DPRK-US and DPRK-Japan relations is expected to be riddled with obstacles arising from differences in US-DPRK opinions.
  • In this sense, the 5th Round of the Six-Party Talks to be held in November will present an even greater challenge than the previous sessions.
  • The DPRK's announcement that "the light-water reactors must be provided for first", which came the day immediately following the announcement of the Joint Declaration, signals that US-DPRK diplomatic jockeying in the run-up to the 5th round of talks has already begun.
  • This demand by the DPRK, rather than being geared toward nullifying the articles of the Joint Declaration, seems to be an attempt to take the initiative on articulating the "specific" interpretation of the ambiguous phrases used in the Declaration.
  • For this reason, the US and Japan are refraining from over-reacting, pursuing a principle-based stance.
    - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice remarked on Sep. 21st that "under no circumstances shall the light-water reactors be provided first".
    ※ At the closing General Meeting on Sep. 19th, the five participant states excluding the DPRK are believed to have generally agreed to the US view that the "suitable time" for the provision of the light-water reactors as stipulated in the Declaration should be interpreted as "after the DPRK has abandoned its nuclear program, rejoined the NPT and implemented IAEA safeguards agreements".