Building Six-Party Capacity for a WMD-Free Korea

Last updated January 01, 2009

The six-party talks dealing with the North Korean nuclear challenge have a mixed track record when it comes to achieving their goal of verifiable denuclearization and promoting peace and stability in Northeast Asia. This innovative form of multilateral diplomacy is entering a critical implementation phase during an important time of political transition in South Korea and the United States. It is time to look for more from the six-party talks, but we cannot expect the talks to deliver desired results unless the participants are willing to empower the process in modest ways.

With the generous support of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, IFPA completed a three-year multilateral research project in April 2008 that sought to bridge differences between the nations with regard to six-party capacity building and to develop a common approach to North Korean denuclearization and related economic engagement. The project yielded practical suggestions for solving the myriad of implementation challenges the region faces with regard to nuclear dismantlement and verification, coordinated economic assistance and investment, and striking the right security balance by reconciling the the prospects for U.S.-North Korea normalization, inter-Korean normalization, and the development of a regional security forum. Furthermore, this project directly integrated today’s vibrant, global discussions on reforming nuclear and WMD proliferation rules and practices.

The project had four main components:

  1. Moderated multilateral workshops and working group meetings. The project built on its successful workshop series by expanding Chinese, Russian and Australian participation, while sustaining high-level U.S., Japanese, and South Korean participation, and seek eventual North Korean involvement. These dialogues became increasingly productive as the core group of participants grew (thus adding a rich diversity of relevant expertise), and as they became more familiar with the project and with each other. IFPA organized three workshops (in Shanghai, Honolulu, and Seoul) to explore the issues mentioned above, building in opportunities for smaller working groups and for breakout sessions on such crucial issues as the nature of an acceptable security assurance and the design of a feasible and effective verification regime for North Korea.
  2. Early warning packages to top policy makers. To assist U.S. government officials on major Korean security issues with a particular focus on WMD developments, the project provided “early warning packages” to senior members of the White House, the State Department, the Defense Department, and other relevant U.S. agencies.
  3. Policy-oriented workshop reports. After each workshop, the Institute published a summary report that integrated and synthesized the findings and analysis derived from the meetings. IFPA used a targeted dissemination strategy that focused on all the relevant policy-making communities in the United States, in the other six-party countries, and in other key key countries and international organizations (such as Australia, the IAEA and similar agencies, and the EU).
  4. A forward-looking and comprehensive monograph. The project culminated in Nuclear Matters in North Korea, a monograph that integrates and synthesizes independent research and analysis by IFPA’s research staff, the findings and recommendations from the three workshops, and original work produced by IFPA’s consultants.

This project built upon an earlier IFPA study (2001-2004, also supported by the Carnegie Corporation), which made important contributions to the development of a more cohesive and comprehensive regional approach for negotiating a WMD-free Korea. That study included a three-stage workshop series on these issues, beginning with a bilateral U.S.-ROK workshop held in Washington, D.C., on April 26, 2002; a trilateral U.S.-ROK-Japan workshop in Seoul on April 11, 2003; and a multilateral U.S.-ROK-Japan-China-Russia-Australia workshop held in Hawaii on February 20, 2004. Reports from those workshops are available here (see sidebar), and the study culminated with a detailed monograph, Building Six-Party Capacity for a WMD-Free Korea, which is available for order from IFPA.