Academic journal article North Korean Review

The Six-Party Talks in the Post-Kim Jong-Il Era: An Emergent Path toward a Northeast Asian Security Mechanism *

Academic journal article North Korean Review

The Six-Party Talks in the Post-Kim Jong-Il Era: An Emergent Path toward a Northeast Asian Security Mechanism *

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Six-Party Talks were initiated as an ad hoc multilateral framework for dealing with the second round of the North Korean nuclear crisis in 2003. Since then, the talks have functionally expanded and been institutionally reinforced, with occasional fluctuations of ups and downs. Over the past years, there has been a dominant speculation that the talks would be a significant "litmus test" for determining future circumstances on the Korean Peninsula and in the Northeast Asian region. The underlying assumption of this speculation is that the successful completion of the talks would lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, a formal ending of the Korean War with a peace treaty, and building a Northeast Asian security mechanism. Even though the talks have stalled since November 2008, it still holds valid that the six-party process would serve as an intermediary path toward achieving peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

After a two-year-long stall of the Six-Party Talks, a new momentum for the resumption of the talks seemed to have returned recently. The inter-Korean denuclearization dialogues were held in Bali in July and in Beijing in September 2011, and the U.S.-DPRK high-level talks were held in New York in July and in Geneva in October 2011. Most recently, the third round of the U.S.-DPRK talks was held on February 23-24, 2012, in Beijing, which was the first since the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il on December 17, 2011. It was reported that North Korea agreed to a moratorium on nuclear tests and uranium enrichment activity, and to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment. Can this be interpreted as a signal that North Korea is ready to agree to steps demanded by Washington and Pyongyang's neighbors to restart the Six-Party Talks?

Since the sudden death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il last year, it has been speculated that the resumption of the Six-Party Talks appears unlikely for the time being. However, on the contrary, the sudden political change in North Korea seems to give an impetus to the talks. Given the recent diplomatic developments, it is sensible to speculate that the Six-Party Talks are likely to be resumed in the foreseeable future. In the same vein, the Six-Party Talks are still reasonably expected to have the potential to serve as an emergent path toward a Northeast Asian security mechanism in the future.

The objective of this article is to examine the viability of the Six-Party Talks and the possibility of its transformation into a Northeast Asian security mechanism in the post-Kim Jong-il era. This article draws on the terms "path dependence" and "path emergence" as a theoretical apparatus to guide the evolutionary path from institutional self-reinforcement to transformation. Path emergence is conceptualized as a complement to the concept of path dependence. The concept of path dependence has been used to refer to a historical sequence in which contingent events set institutional patterns with deterministic properties into motion. Traditionally, path dependence theory tends to focus on mechanisms that anchor and stabilize institutional trajectories. This theory explains why the six-party process has been reinforced until now. However, it does not adequately explain institutional changes and ensuing emergent properties exhibited due to complex interactions between entities. In order to modify this theoretical lapse, the term "path emergence" has been coined to explain the causes underlying institutional changes and ensuing emergent properties as unintended consequences.

This article consists of four main sections. The first section presents the concepts of "path dependence" and "path emergence" as a theoretical framework. The second section examines the path dependence of the Six-Party Talks. The third section explores the road map of path emergence of the Six-Party Talks. Lastly, the concluding section summarizes the research outcomes. …

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