Friday, September 30, 2005

❄ North Korea [III]: Agreement?

On 19 September 2005 the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks on North Korea concluded with a Joint Statement, which is grist for discussing two design problems: what would a conclusive agreement look like? and how could negotiations be designed to reach a conclusion?

There’s no substitute for a close reading of the actual text. Though it’s short, it is rather long for a blog entry. So I suggest you bring it up alongside this note, for which I’ll just pick out some key points.

The Question

What does the Joint Statement suggest for negotiation design?


Each of the two key parties, North Korea and the United States, made key (qualified) commitments. I term these ‘qualified’ because North Korea may require ‘actions’ before IAEA Safeguards begin to operate, and because there is a difference between saying ‘we will not’ and saying ‘we have no [present] intention’. The text:

“The DPRK committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs and returning, at an early date, 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.”

In the July-August sessions of the Fourth Round, North Korea made clear it wanted a light-water reactor program. The United States found that anathema. The Joint Statement finesses this issue by stating

“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.”

The parties commit to more talks, and they establish a key principle by which fresh commitments are to be tied to performances [highlight added]:

“  5. The Six Parties agreed to take coordinated steps to implement the afore-mentioned 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.”

The Political Design Problem

How can the terms of the Joint Statement be used to advance negotiations in the face of deep distrust between the two key parties?


[1] Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks. Beijing,19 September 2005.

[Political Design 2005.09.30 Post A14.]