Six Party Talks 

The multilateral dialogue with North Korea became possible only after Pyongyang on January 10, 2003, announced its decision to withdraw from the international Nuclear Non-Prolifiration Treaty (NPT). Doing so, Pyongyang quickly attracted attention of the world, and the Six Party Talks began very soon: the first round was held on August 27-29 of the same year. 

The idea of the talks was very good and promising. It was about searching for a solution, acceptable for every party concerned. On vice-ministerial level diplomats of DPRK, Republic of Korea, China, US, Russia and Japan gathered in Beijing to negotiate the deal leading to non-proliferation of nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, but each of them pursued their own political aims. The political game brought the Six Party Talks to slow death. The negotiations could not prevent developing of the nuclear weapons by North Korea, but contrary resulted in making Pyongyang capable to produce and use its own nuclear bombs. 

The first round of negotiations in Beijing in August 2003 ended only with an agreement to continue the dialogue. The delegations met again on February 2004 to find out what Pyongyang had achieved exactly in its nuclear ambitions. 

The DPRK sent to Beijing a very experienced negotiator vice-minister Kim Gye-gwan. In 1994, he participated in the US - North Korean Negotiations in Geneva, which let to the framework agreement on freezing nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. South Korean Delegation was headed by deputy Foreign Minister Lee Soo-hyuk. Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly represented the US. For the position of the Russian chief negotiator was chosen a very popular among journalists Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Alexander Losyukov. Wang Yi represented the host country China, at that time vice-minister for foreign affairs. Japan delegated to Beijing the Director-General of Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau Mitoji Yabunaka. From the very beginning Japan was searching the way to address the nuclear problem together with the issue of missile technologies of Pyongyang and the problem of Japanese abductees in North Korea.    

The delegates met at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse (钓鱼台国宾馆) in Beijing, closed area for public access, and the press-center was opened nearby at the Diaoyutai Hotel. The meeting was concluded again without significant agreement. 

At the next meeting, in June 2004, Kim Gye-gwan explained the DRPK position as follows: "Our goal is to protect ourselves from nuclear attack, so if the US abandon its policy of hostility towards us and prove it by practical actions, the DPRK would be ready to abandon its nuclear program". 

Sources close to negotiations told the author that significant difficulties appeared during talks because the delegates were lost in translation. Talks were slow as the negotiators had to double ask questions and repeat their positions several times to make it clear for all. 

Bilateral meetings were held between the negotiations as a whole. They discussed the matter of trust between US and DPRK, possible demolition of at least two nuclear objects in North Korea and compensation from the other parties. 

In 2005, Washington replaced its chief negotiator with assistant secretary of state Christopher Hill who impressed the media by readiness to speak and explain what was going on. Russia sent to Beijing deputy foreign minister Alexander Alekseyev after Alexander Losyukov left for Japan as the Russian Ambassador. South Korea was represented by Song Min-soon. Japan also changed the head of its delegation with Ken'ichiro Sasae. The Chinese negotiator was replaced with vice-minister Wu Dawei, and only North Korea was still represented by Kim Gye-gwan. 

Former president of the Republic of Korea Kin Dae-jung, awarded Nobel Peace Prize in 2000, said on July 28, 2005: "The solving problems between US and North Korea around the nuclear program is an easy task: North Korea abandons its nuclear program and allows control from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEI). Now North Korea demonstrates such a position, that she can do it". As Kim Dae-jung said, the US should give security guarantee to North Korea and not to make obstacles for development of the North Korean economy.

"United States have not make a decision, but the decision would determine success or failure of the six party talks", - stressed former South Korean president. 

On July 29, 2005 the Commander of the US forces in Korea Gen. Leon J. LaPorte officially said to South Korean News Agency Yonhap, that the US troops in the Republic of Korea did not have any nuclear weapons. The issue was raised by Pyongyang, claiming that before 1991 there were 1720 nuclear weapons in South Korea and about a thousand could still remain there. Gen. LaPorte confirmed that all nuclear weapons were withdrawn from South Korea in 1991 and would never be brought there again. 

September 19, 2005, was a significant day in the six party negotiation process. They managed to conclude a joined statement of principles to solve the nuclear problem. According to the document, the DPRK committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. The country anticipated returning to the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and to IAEA safeguards. 

The United States affirmed that it has no nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and has no intention to attack or invade the DPRK with nuclear or conventional weapons. 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. US and DPRK agreed take to steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies. China, Japan, ROK, Russia and the US stated their willingness to provide energy assistance to North Korea.

Everything seemed going on very well, but just a few days before the agreement (September 15, 2005) the US Department of the Treasury designated Banco Delta Asia SARL in Macau as a "primary money laundering concern" under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act. Among other things, the Department quoting its sources claimed: "senior officials in Banco Delta Asia are working with DPRK officials to accept large deposits of cash, including counterfeit US currency, and agreeing to place that currency into circulation". 

No confirmation has been found but, as a result of this action, North Korea lost access to nearly $25 million on the bank accounts. But, as journalist Ronda Hauben found outthe Banco Delta sanctions was an issue that was only secondarily aimed at North Korea. The primary issue, she wrote, was what was China’s foreign policy and how closely did China’s behavior match the foreign policy goals set out by the US. In another words, actions against Banco Delta Asia (BDA) was a signal to China. 

However, North Korea considered the move of the US government as an attempt to exert pressure on Pyongyang, and six party talks were temporary frozen. 

On Jine 1, 2006, the KEDO Executive Board formally announced about termination of its project to built two light water reactors in North Korea.

The chain of unfavorable for North Korea events pushed this country to conduct a nuclear test on October 9, 2006. The UN Security Council had to adopt a resolution with sanctions against DRPK as it undermined the international nuclear non-prolifiration treaty, regardless of what was the reason for Pyongyang's actions. 

On December 18, 2006, delegates of the six party talks met again after the 13 month break and indicated that there were too much differences between them to strike any deal. Media reports in Seoul quoted unnamed sources, saying that North Korea set three preconditions: Pyongyang would be ready to discuss its nuclear program only if the US, firstly, legislatively abandon hostile policy against the North Korea, secondly, if Washington arrange conditions to cancel anti-DRPK sanctions, imposed by the US and the United Nations, and thirdly, if DPRK would get nuclear power plant on light water reactors. In addition, North Korea warned that in case of continuing the pressure the country it would build up its nuclear force and go on with new nuclear tests. 

To move forward negotiators needed to find a way to unblock $25 million of North Korean accounts in the BDA.  For this purpose a special working group was formed. Moreover, the executive chief of Central Bank of DPRK was coming to Beijing to meet with Daniel L. Glaser, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes in the Department of Treasury of the United States. 

Though americans tried to convince North Korea that sanctions against Banco Delta Asia had no connection with nuclear issue, on December 21 US chief negotiator Chris Hill admitted, that freezing of accets in BDA in reality was a preventive action against proliferation of North Korean nuclear weapons, and new measures of financial restrictions could follow in case of the further development of Pyongyang's nuclear program. 

Some observers assumed, that North Korea was playing for time in hope that democrats would win the president election in the United States soon. The logic said to North Korea, that if democrats helped to reach a nuclear accord in 1994, it could happen again this time. 

Meanwhile, Alexander Losyukov once again was appointed as the head of the Russian delegation at the talks. Soon after that he told the author that "the United States should make some first steps toward Koreans and discuss the issue of canceling the financial restrictions". At the same time he said, that attempt of the DPRK to use this issue as an obstacle to continue negotiations was "not 100% justified".

Delegations of financial officials from the US and DPRK held a number of contacts in Berlin in January 2007, discussing cancelation of restrictions against North Korean assets. But as Losyukov later told Russian journalists in Beijing, the agreements reached in Berlin were vague and interpreted in different ways by each side. 

In February 2007, Chris Hill and Kim Gye-gwan hold four bilateral meetings within just one day before the six party talks resumed. Finally, an agreement was reached to transfer $25 million of frozen accounts to North Korea. 

The Six Party talks produced a plan of denuclearization anticipating that the DPRK would shut down and seal for the purpose of eventual abandonment the Yongbyon nuclear facility and invite back IAEA personnel to conduct monitoring and verifications. From the other side, the US and Japan agreed to begin the process of taking steps to normalize their relations with North Korea. The initial shipment of emergency energy assistance to DPRK was negotiated as equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil that would commence within 60 days.

Five working groups were established on the following matters: Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula; Normalization of DPRK-US relations; Normalization of DPRK-Japan relations; Economy and Energy Cooperation; Creating of the Northeast Asia Peace and Security Mechanism. 

The next phase, which included 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, was anticipating economic, energy and humanitarian assistance up to the equivalent of 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil, minus 50,000 tons, mentioned above.

However, the pending issue of unblocking $25 million for North Korea in Macau did not allow to move forward and start implementing the timetable.       

It was reported, that about 50 bank accounts, belonging to North Koreans, had to be processed to cancel restrictions. A significant part of the accounts had been open by the name of the former executive director of a trade company who had past away by the time of negotiations, and another person who was also a former head of the company and had already returned to Macau. As far as the money should be returned to their owners, this plan was not easy to realize. 

Moreover, although the sanctions against North Korean accounts in BDA were canceled, the money should be transferred to their owners through New York, but US companies still could not deal with the bank BDA. That's why the US technically could not return the money within 30 days. That's why also the measures for freezing of the North Korean nuclear facilities in the initial period of 60 days, had to be delayed. 

On March 19, delegation from Pyongyang at six party talks refused to discuss nuclear issues until the whole amount of $25 million were unblocked. By that time, Chinese banks refused to mediate money transfer for North Korea, fearing to be blacklisted and sanctioned by the US as well. The situation was unblocked finally by Russia. 

On June 25, 2007, the Russian "Dalkombank" transferred the assets from BDA to North Korea as a mediator after receiving a written guarantee from the US government that no actions against the Russian side would follow the transaction. Right after that, DPRK announced that she was ready to implement the plan of denuclearization. By December 31, North Korea promised to disable three facilities in Yongbyon  and declare all its existed nuclear programs.  

The nuclear declaration was presented only on June 26, 2008 because until then the US and DPRK could not negotiate on the content of the disclosed programs and facilities. The next day North Korea symbolically destroyed a cooling tower in Yongbyon. 

On the other hand, the United States promised to start the process of excluding the DPRK from the list of the countries sponsoring terrorism. North Korea was put into the list after the tragic incident with the South Korean passenger airliner un 1987. Pyongyang had not admitted responsibility for the incident blaming Seoul in fabricating the terrorist act. 

At the six party talks in Beijing, the Republic of Korea indeed was the closest partner of the DPRK, helping to find solutions at stalemates thank to the "sunshine policy" of the President Roh Mu-hyun. The situation drastically changed when on February 25, 2008, new president was sworn in South Korea and it was Lee Myung-bak who abandoned almost all previous inter-Korean agreements and cooperation. Consequently, it affected the six party talks process quite soon. 

After the progress was made at the negotiation table, ministers of foreign affairs of the six countries on July 23, 2008 met in Singapore, where the author was in the pool of journalists with the Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov. 

The ministers held their meeting to support agreements, reached at the six party talks in Beijing. They sit in a circle in one of the conference rooms of Singapore Shangrila Hotel. North Korean minister Pak Eui-ju was sitting to the right from the Chinese minister Yang Jiechi. To the left there was a seat for Condoleezza Rice facing Lavrov, Japanese minister Masahiko Komura and their South Korean counterpart Yu Myung-hwan. Before the meeting the six ministers posed for a photo, but did not shake hands. 

The ministerial meeting did not have any significance except a symbolic support. It didn't help anything. Later the same year Japan refused to supply its portion of fuel to Pyongyang and the DPRK delegation demanded to exclude Japan from the negotiation process. Japanese position not to provide compensation to North Korea was explained by the unsolved bilateral issue of abductees between the two countries. 

The new South Korean government also delayed implementation of its obligations to provide fuel to Pyongyang by pretext that it would depend on the "further circumstances". The circumstances mentioned in Seoul meant the emerging of Barak Obama's administration in the US. Hopes of Pyongyang that the new democratic government in United States would help as it happened in 1994, failed and left no illusions. 

The atmosphere of distrust still existed between the key countries of the six and the distrust could not be removed from the very beginning. The talks could lead only to short-term solutions but not a far, distant goal of denuclearization.  

On April 5, 2009, North Korea launched the three-stage "Unha-2" rocket which could be used as a long range ballistic missile. Pyongyang claimed that the rocket placed a satellite into orbit, but international experts did not confirm that, stating that the rocket's first stage landed in the Sea of Japan, and the remaining parts fell into somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. The UN issued the presidential statement of the Security Council, blaming North Korea in violation of the resolution 1718 which had banned developing of missile technologies by Pyongyang. North Korea reacted immediately on April 2009 by withdrawing itself from the six party talks. 

To eliminate all doubts in seriousness of the North Korean position, Pyongyang conducts its second underground nuclear test on May 25, 2009. The six party talks by that time were completely dead with no chance for reincarnation.