Option 4: Resuming the Six-Party Talks

The Korean Peninsula has been divided for over seventy years, and there is no sign that the division will end any time soon. The ROK and the DPRK are bogged down in a drawn-out competition, in which neither side has made decisive progress in pursuit of national unification. Recently, the competition entered a new stage, in which additional factors have risen to the forefront. First, China is rising as a leading world power, which not only wants to reshape the current international system but also demonstrates an increasing interest in engaging in Korean affairs. As an outsider to the Korean rivalry, China’s influence over Korean unification has increased to the point that it may tip the balance of power on the peninsula decisively. Second, as the balance of power on the peninsula has tilted toward South Korea, North Korea has resorted to nuclear weapons in an attempt to reverse the trend. North Korea’s nuclear weapons have drawn sanctions resolutions from the Security Council and remain a focal point of contention in Northeast Asia. Coupled with the sudden succession to power of Kim Jong-un, which has cast a long shadow over regime stability in North Korea, South Korea seemingly has been moving to the winning side in the competition, becoming more confident that it can accomplish national unification on its own terms. Yet, this article starts from the premise that a victory of this sort is so unlikely that the time has come seriously to consider a different option: working with China to resume the Six-Party Talks with a new agenda that has promise for changing North Korea’s calculus.

Failed Paths to Unification

The division of the Korean Peninsula is a tragedy for the Korean people. Both Koreas want to end it with their own solutions. North Korea tried by using its military forces in 1950, but the campaign turned out to produce another disaster, which further hardened the national division and made the peninsula the most fortified and dangerous place on earth. After North Korea failed to unify the peninsula by military means, it initiated a series of campaigns to rally popular support in both Koreas and to promote peaceful unification, remaining on the offensive diplomatically over the next three decades.

As leading representatives of two political systems, socialism and capitalism, the two sides were rivals with two competing camps standing firmly behind them. Their confrontation was imbued with an ideological color and constituted one of the key hot spots in the Cold War. Even though the two could conduct a dialogue in 1971 and 1972 and reach a consensus on three principles for unification (independence, peaceful unification, and great national unity), their unification formulas were so much in conflict with each other that ties barely moved forward. As both heavily relied on major allies’ support, their rivalry remained intertwined with Soviet-US competition. The superpowers were in a standoff, and the division on the peninsula seemingly had no chance to be resolved.

The end of the Cold War reshaped the geopolitical landscape. The balance of power on the peninsula decisively tilted toward South Korea in the economic and diplomatic fields. In the 1980s, South Korea had emerged as one of Four Dragons in East Asia, which set themselves as shining examples for other developing countries, including China, to emulate. The Soviet Union disintegrated, and East European countries undertook sweeping political changes. North Korea lost some of its principal political supporters and economic and military donors. The economic gap between North and South became increasingly wide as South Korea continued to flourish and North Korea struggled. To add to Pyongyang’s woes, as South Korea harvested significant gains from “nordpolitik” and gained China’s diplomatic recognition, North Korea was unable to normalize relations with the United States and its allies, and its relations with China worsened due to the Beijing-Seoul rapprochement. For the first time, it experienced leadership change. Kim Jong-il took over in 1994, and Kim Jong-un did in 2012, arousing in each case uncertainty and fueling speculation of turmoil exaggerated by the hostile external environment.

The changing balance of power on the peninsula reversed the old defensive-offensive postures in pursuit of unification. South Korea, boosted by its economic success and a favorable geopolitical climate, gained the upper hand in its competition with North Korea for unification. With the Cold War fading away, under South Korea’s tireless push, the two Koreas engaged in serious talks, culminating in the South-North Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the South-North Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression, Exchanges, and Cooperation signed on December 31, 1991. Although their détente was short-lived, it paved the way for further dialogue. In 2000 and 2007, their leaders would have historical meetings and issue joint statements, in which both “agreed to resolve” the question of reunification of the Korean Peninsula and promised to take steps toward reunification, ease military tensions, expand reunion of separated families, and promote social and cultural exchanges. The two Koreas were closer to national unification than at any time in their long division since 1945.

Inter-Korean history demonstrates that even though the two Koreas have attempted to achieve unification along many paths, the major powers’ interventions inevitably have complicated the process. The stalemate had seemingly come to an end as North Korea’s economy tumbled and diplomatic isolation deepened. South Korea, which has been on the offensive in its unification campaign, could see a glimpse of hope to unify the peninsula under its banner. Lee Myung-bak’s government began to think “about real and substantive ways to prepare for reunification such as the adoption of a unification tax.”1 President Park Geun-hye went further in launching a “unification preparatory committee under the direct control of the president to study systematic and constructive directions of unification.”2 South Korea seemed poised to map out a blueprint for achieving national unification. Yet, this is an illusion, not a serious option for Seoul’s foreign policy.

Factors that Matter in Unification

We may draw some lessons from other unification cases, including Vietnam, Germany, and Yemen. Their successful stories share some similarities. First, unification success to a large extent depends on power asymmetry between two competing states. The bigger the asymmetry of their strengths, the more likely is unification. North Vietnam could bring South Vietnam into its wing, West Germany could absorb East Germany, and North Yemen could unify with its south partner mainly thanks to overwhelming power, particularly economic prowess. For South Korea, it has already reached the point that it easily dwarfs its northern competitor. North Korea’s GDP totaled USD 31 billion at the end of 2013, a mere 2 percent of South Korea’s GDP.3 According to a report released by the Hyundai Research Institute (HRI) in March 2014, North Korea’s 2013 per-capita GDP amounted to a mere 3.6 percent of South Korea’s USD 23,838.4 As a clear indication of such economic superiority and confidence, the Lee Myung-bak proposed Vision 3000 to raise North Korea’s GDP to USD 3,000 in short order via massive southern aid and investment.5

Economic superiority not only can help South Korea lure the other side to its fold as West Germany did, but also can serve as a necessary means to carry out all sorts of unification tasks, e.g. humanitarian intervention and large-scale infrastructure construction. Although any possible Korean unification might incur tremendous costs, South Korea seemingly is willing to foot the bill. Yet, what may help North Korea turn the tables in its competition with South Korea are its nuclear weapons. It resorted to them in an attempt to change the game to its favor. Some South Koreans have even become wary that it might use nuclear weapons to coerce the South into a unification engineered by the North. Since the 1990s, North Korea’s nuclear issue has haunted the peninsula, especially after it detonated its first nuclear bomb in 2006. How to eliminate this nuclear threat occupies a central place in South Korea’s diplomacy and casts a shadow on optimistic planning for reunification.

Second, strong but creative leadership is needed in the unification process. Le Duan and his associates, who had accumulated enormous political and military experience through numerous brutal wars, led the military unification campaign to its final victory in Vietnam; Helmut Kohl, chancellor of West Germany, shrewdly seized the historical chance brought by Mikhail Gorbachev’s “new thinking,” quickly accomplishing national unification on his terms. Without the strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh in North Yemen, it would likely have taken more years for North and South Yemen to become one nation. It is the same case with Korean unification. As North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong-un still struggled to consolidate his power base, many expected that a strong leader with a long-term vision and sharp communication skills might emerge from South Korea, steering the unification process through uncharted territory. Thinking along these lines may be driving Park Geun-hye toward assertive diplomacy, expecting that she can achieve quick results.

Third, an historical opening is needed to accomplish national unification. This opening could be a withdrawal of external support due to policy change or a regime change. North Vietnam could overwhelm its southern rival to some extent thanks to America’s retreat from South Vietnam. West Germany could win out in the unification campaign to a large extent due to end of Brezhnevism, triggered by Gorbachev’s reforms. North Yemen’s success in unification was mainly attributed to the Soviet strategic retreat from other parts of the world. The end of the Cold War offered a historical chance to the Germans and the Yemeni to fulfill their national unification aspirations. To end the division in Korea, many South Koreans are hopeful of a comparable opening through a rupture in China-North Korea relations and China’s withdrawal of support to North Korea. Various moves by Seoul reflect its hopes for bringing about this development—a honeymoon with China, the NAPCI regional initiative, and some degree of coordination on history against Japan.

Other factors, including North Korea’s domestic stability and the strength of the Korean people’s unification aspirations also play some role in whether Seoul can pursue its plans for unification, but clearly securing China’s cooperation is very high on its list.

Policy Options and Chinese Cooperation

As South Korea intensifies its effort to facilitate unification, it is weighing diplomatic alternatives, each of which has ramifications for securing cooperation from China. It can continue to maintain its allied relations with the United Sates, which still is South Korea’s diplomatic priority. This option has strong historical roots and is a realistic necessity. The United States saved the South from being unified by the North by military means, and in order to stave off the “northern threat,” it formed an alliance in which it committed itself to South Korea’s security. The relationship has been in place for more than 62 years and weathered all kinds of tests. They have common positions on many international issues, particularly North Korea’s nuclear weapons. As John Kerry acclaimed, “There is no daylight, not an inch, not a centimeter, not a microscope of difference between the United States and the Republic of Korea in our approach to the question of North Korea’s provocations and its nuclear program”6 But the alliance is not free from problems; they are always at odds over a variety of issues, including defense burden-sharing and transfer of wartime operational control. The increasingly close relations between South Korea and China fuel an ill-founded concept that South Korea could rely on China in the economic field but on the United States in security. The recent united front formed by South Korea and China in historical disputes with Japan made the United States uneasy. Washington’s confidence in South Korea’s loyalty, to some extent, has been eroded. Its displeasure with South Korea’s policy toward Japan is not a secret. The ongoing feud between South Korea and Japan undermines US efforts to pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region.

Consolidating allied relations is a top South Korean diplomatic objective, but it has its own unwanted ramifications. First, as the United States intensifies efforts to implement its rebalance strategy, China, which believes it is the main target of the strategy, is on guard. Any measures to strengthen the alliance between Washington and Seoul will be carefully scrutinized by Beijing and might trigger negative reactions. The joint US-South Korea military drill in the Yellow Sea in 2010 and the current THAAD issue are the two outstanding examples, revealing the delicacy of trilateral relations. Therefore, as Sino-US rivalry heightens, how to strike a balance between two conflicting objectives, to maintain a strong alliance with the United States and at the same time to avoid agitating China, is a daunting challenge for South Korea. Second, the confrontation between North Korea and the United States shows no sign of easing up in the near future. North Korea’s nuclear weapons are partially designed to deter a conventional and nuclear attack from the United States. Pyongyang made no secret that “The DPRK’s access to smaller, precision and diversified nuclear strike means was designed to conclude the final battle with the US in its mainland.”7 As Pyongyang decided that “The army and people of the DPRK cannot but officially notify the Obama administration of the USA that the DPRK has neither need nor willingness to sit at the negotiating table with the US any longer,” it is less likely that inter-Korean relations will improve in the foreseeable future. North Korea announced, “as long as there exists the US-South Korea alliance,” “the danger of a war can hardly be defused on the Korean Peninsula, and it is hard to expect either peace or the reunification of the country.”8 Efforts to consolidate allied relations can only elicit North Korea’s provocations.

An alternative is to seek a rapprochement with North Korea with the aim of persuading it to give up its nuclear weapons and jointly pursue national unification. To seek a strong alliance with the United States risks pushing inter-Korean relations onto the proven path of confrontation. As Park Geun-hye came to power, she tried to change Lee Myung-bak’s “getting tough” policy toward North Korea, mainly caused by the Cheonan incident, and adopted a “trust-building process on the Korean Peninsula,” signaled in her article, “A New Kind of Korea.”9 Although trustpolitik insists on a robust and credible deterrent posture against North Korea, it emphasizes incremental trust building between the South and the North, including resumption of enhanced economic cooperation and humanitarian aid. The underlying logic behind it is a belief that the old tough policy had reached a dead end; so the best way for South Korea to deal with North Korea should be to build some degree of trust across the DMZ through a combination of sticks and carrots.

Trustpolitik has a built-in tension between deterrence and trust building. As North Korea continued to press ahead with its long-range missile and nuclear developments, inter-Korea relations inevitably had to experience crises one after another. North Korea’s third nuclear test in 2013 effectively sabotaged Park’s trustpolitik; inter-Korean trust has not increased but weakened. In addition to the nuclear issue, the two Koreas have also been at loggerheads over a variety of issues from the closure of the Kaesong industrial complex to balloon-borne anti-DPRK leaflets to North Korea’s human rights issues. Even though Park has a strong will to make progress on inter- Korean relations, the results will be defined by some inescapable factors. First is the willingness to reciprocate in kind. North Korea’s National Reunification Institute’s white paper on May 29, 2015 indicted her “for the crimes she committed by pursuing confrontation with the fellow countrymen in the north and sycophancy and enforcing the fascist rule for the past two-odd years in office.” This seemingly reveals that North Korea has no intention to deal with Park as long as she is in office. Second is North Korea’s nuclear program, which has created enormous trouble not only for South Korea and other neighboring countries, but also for North Korea itself. It poisons relations with the outside world, but North Korea remains determined to stick to it, declaring itself a “nuclear-armed state” in its constitution10 and adopting the byungjin line on March 31, 2013, according to which the party and government need to pursue “simultaneous development of nuclear weapons and the economy.”11 Seemingly, North Korea’s nuclear program will continue to hinder any inter-Korean reconciliation. Third, there are other controversial issues, including North Korea’s apology for its responsibility in the Cheonan sinking and subsequent lifting of the “May 24 Measures” and suspension of US-South Korea military exercises. As these issues are intertwined, it is extremely difficult to find a solution to any single issue. In light of North Korea’s nuclear weapons and the accumulated suspicion between the two Koreas, a sustainable entente and Korean unification seems to be well beyond reach.

Third, an alternative option for South Korea is to work with China to promote the early resumption of the Six-Party Talks. This choice is appealing to some South Koreans for a number of reasons. For South Korea to further strengthen allied relations with the United States has its own limits, and to improve relations with North Korea is unrealistic in the short term, but to seek better relations with China is desirable and possible. Since 1992, Sino-South Korea relations have leapt forward from a cooperative partnership in 2000 to a comprehensive cooperative partnership in 2003 to a strategic cooperative partnership in 2008. Their two-way trade has experienced an exponential growth, China has been South Korea’s largest trading partner since 2007, and the trade volume is larger than those between South Korea and the United States and Japan combined. South Korea’s exports to China have been over 20 percent of its total since 2008 and reached 25.4 percent in the first quarter of 2015.12 The solid economic ties do not necessarily produce closer political connections. The two nations’ political relations once stood in sharp contrast to their warm economic interactions as they found themselves at odds in their policies toward North Korea. China wanted to maintain equally friendly relations with the two Koreas, and South Korea wanted China to punish North Korea for its missile and nuclear provocations. However, the political coolness was quickly reversed in the wake of leadership changes, when presidents Xi Jinping and Park Geun-hye forged a very good personal relationship and strategic dialogue channels were upgraded. Xi clearly supported Park’s trustpolitik, and Park reciprocated by reaching an implicit united front with China in coping with Japan’s historical issues. Of late, South Korea finds more common ground with China in their approaches toward North Korea.

China and North Korea’s troubled relations grant South Korea a long-awaited glimmer of hope that China might withdraw its support to North Korea some time in the future. To maintain a friendly relationship has been China’s unwavering policy toward North Korea. In 2000, Jiang Zemin formulated a sixteen-character guideline for Sino-North Korean relations, namely, “carrying forward the tradition, facing the future, developing good-neighborly friendship and strengthening cooperation.” (jicheng chuantong, mianxiang weilai, mulin youhao, jiaqiang hezuo). This forward-looking political statement revealed China’s desire to strengthen relations with North Korea after they had suffered a severe setback in the wake of diplomatic recognition between China and South Korea in 1992.

This policy was seriously tested after North Korea’s first nuclear detonation. China for the first time joined with the United States and South Korea in denouncing North Korea’s provocations and enabled the Security Council to pass punitive resolutions imposing sanctions against it. As China tried to repair its damaged political relations with North Korea and encourage it to stick to the Six-Party Talks, it also tried to separate its economic ties from the fallout of the nuclear test. In August 2010, Hu Jintao laid down a new guideline for Sino-North Korean economic relations, i.e., “government guidance with enterprises playing a major role, market-orientation, and win-win cooperation” (zhengfu zhidao, qiye weizhu, shichang daoxiang, huli shuangying).”13 Under this guidance, Sino-North Korean economic ties flourished, but North Korea showed no sign of backing off from its nuclear program. North Korea’s third nuclear test proved that China’s adherence to the separation of nuclear issue from normal economic ties was not effective in luring North Korea to the negotiating table. Xi Jinping replaced the old sixteen character guideline with a new one, i.e., “mutual respect, equal treatment, seeking common ground while reserving differences and win-win cooperation (xianghu zunzhong, pingdeng xiangdai, qiutong cunyi, hezuo gongying).”14 The expression “seeking common ground while reserving differences” had never publically applied to Sino-North Korea relations. Its inclusion in the guiding principle demonstrates China’s intention to acknowledge their differences in public and normalize their relations. In the past three years, political relations have cooled. The new leaders have not exchanged visits yet. Economic relations also lost steam as China applied pressure in its economic relations with North Korea. As these relations entered uncharted territory, South Korea had reason to be more optimistic that pulling China to its own side in the inter-Korean rivalry is not well beyond its reach. How to cope with North Korea is South Korea’s top diplomatic challenge. In comparison to Pyongyang, it has more policy alternatives. The alternatives discussed above are not necessarily mutually exclusive. South Korea can strike a balance between seeking enhanced allied relations and furthering strategic cooperation with China.

Resumption of the Six-Party Talks

For South Korea, better relations with China can serve at least two interconnected purposes in its relationship with North Korea: to further pressure North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, which constitute one of the major obstacles on the path to national unification, and to reduce if not totally eliminate China’s support to North Korea, one prerequisite for South Korea-led unification. To do so, South Korea needs to work with China to seek resumption of the Six-Party Talks. Frankly speaking, these talks have been a failure in preventing North Korea from going nuclear and in other assigned missions, including replacing the armistice with a permanent peace mechanism and normalizing North Korea’s relations with the United States and Japan. Yet, they did produce some positive results, including: 1) a consensus among the member states that the Six-Party Talks are the only viable mechanism to cope with North Korea’s nuclear issue (no alternative is ready to replace them); 2) an agreed negotiating format, including one-on-one talks between North Korea and the United States, North Korea and Japan, and etc; 3) the “commitment for commitment, action for action” principle and the September 19 Joint Statement, which clearly stipulates member states’ obligations and responsibilities; 4) a set of institutions, such as the special envoys for the talks and five working committees; and 5) a research community that mainly focuses on studying of and for the talks.

The Six-Party Talks emerged from the ashes of the Agreed Framework and the Four- Party Talks. As North Korea’s nuclear issue unfolded in the early 1990s, China remained a bystander. The Agreed Framework was signed by the United States and North Korea in 1994. North Korea agreed to freeze its nuclear development in exchange for heavy oil assistance and replacement of its nuclear reactor with two 1000MW light water reactors. The Agreed Framework had a bad start and quickly fell apart after 2000. China’s indifferent stance towards the Korean Peninsula shifted for the first time when Bill Clinton and Kim Young-sam jointly proposed Four-Party Talks on April 16, 1996. China participated in the proposed talks and offered general proposals to ease tensions and to set up a permanent peace mechanism on the peninsula. After six rounds, the Four-Party Talks collapsed. China’s political will to lead the negotiations was weak. Beijing was satisfied with its role as an interlocutor responsible for passing messages, nudging relevant parties to the negotiating table, and formulating general negotiating principles.

The failure of the Agreed Framework and the Four-Party Talks gave birth to the second nuclear crisis on the peninsula, and China was ready to play a large role in addressing security issues on the peninsula. It hosted and chaired the Six-Party Talks, which were designed to resolve what the Agreed Framework and Four-Party Talks had failed to. China transformed itself from a promoter of consensus-building, confidence-building measures, and decision implementation to a participant, offering its own proposals.15 The Six-Party Talks had become a full-fledged multilateral dialogue platform. Although they have been suspended for more than six years, China has been, and still is, a staunch advocate of the talks because they are the only viable and effective mechanism for addressing the North Korea nuclear issue.16 China’s consistent support reveals the high stake China has already put on the mechanism. Although the Six-Party Talks’ course remains unfinished, it will continue to serve as a convenient diplomatic tool for China to handle security issues on the peninsula. As China is poised to play a leading role on the global stage, the realization of a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula will be a critical test of its leadership ability.

South Korea working with China to bring life back to the Six-Party Talks not only would increase the chances of persuading North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons, but it would also enhance South Korea’s political ties with China. Even though the political atmosphere between the two nations keeps improving, mutual distrust over their respective motivations for the resumption of the Six-Party Talks is still strong. Their enlarged security dialogues are not enough to put the distrust to rest. So far, South Korea has forged a number of consultation mechanisms with the United States and Japan in regard to the North Korean security challenge, whose exclusiveness sometimes alienates China. To set up a close and regular consultation dialogue with China over the Six-Party Talks issue, South Korea could achieve three basic objectives: 1) to make their strategic cooperative partnership much more solid and sustainable; 2) to serve as a bridge between China and the United States when they are reluctant to talk to each other; and 3) to pressure North Korea to the negotiating table as it worries about possible collusion between Beijing and Seoul.

To resume the Six-Party Talks is not an aim in itself; to ensure the success of the renewed talks should be in policy makers’ minds. Thus, as South Korea and China engage in any consultations, they should seriously discuss the following issues: 1) a comprehensive assessment of the old Six-Party Talks, including its strengths and weakness; 2) based on the assessment, a plan to upgrade the Six-Party Talks, including its ultimate objectives, institution-building, and enforcement measures; 3) the rules and procedures that guide new talks; 4) each state’s responsibilities and obligations, particularly North Korea’s freezing, declaring, and disabling actions and other countries’ corresponding reactions, such as lifting sanctions; and 5) joint economic cooperation with North Korea, including economic and humanitarian assistance.

In order to win in its competition with North Korea and fulfill its unification aspirations, South Korea needs to seek better relations with China. As an important step to consolidate its political foundation with China, South Korea can promote consultations in an effort to resume the Six-Party Talks, aiming at denuclearization of the peninsula. The two nations share more ideas about and approaches to North Korea’s nuclear weapons than at any time before, which paves the way for cooperation in this regard.


To seek a resumption of the Six-Party Talks can be one of South Korea’s foreign policy options. But in order to do so, the Korean government should overcome some obstacles. First, it needs to allay deep-seated suspicion about the prospects of the Six-Party Talks, which have been raised by the initial failure of the talks. North Korea’s steadfast stance on its nuclear program deepens the suspicions. If they are not carefully checked, the member states, including South Korea, cannot press ahead with creative ideas to jump start the stalled talks. Second, South Korea needs to formulate its own proposal for future Six-Party Talks.17 More importantly, South Korea needs to think whether it will work to accomplish the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, or use the talks to check mate North Korea in order to seek regime change. The resumed talks cannot afford another failure. Well-planned and coordinated preparation is desirable.

Third, South Korea needs to assume a larger role in pushing resumption of the talks. The leading actors, China and the United States, have demonstrated inertia in their pursuit of the denuclearization of the peninsula.18 Xi Jinping is preoccupied with anti-corruption campaign inside and “One Belt, One Road” outside. The importance of the Korean Peninsula in his mind has declined to some extent. China seemingly is falling back to an event-driven passive mode. Barack Obama’s faith in North Korea was greatly eroded when the Leap Day Agreement was scrapped. In the face of strong domestic opposition, he has little motivation to make overtures to Pyongyang in his last years in the White House. The Iran nuclear issue occupies a much higher position on his diplomatic agenda. As an immediate stakeholder in North Korea’s nuclear program, South Korea needs to play a large role to push China and the United States to take actions.

To resume the Six Party Talks is not easy after the deep hibernation since 2009. Even though on-and-off calls for an early resumption have been floating around, no country was capable of reviving them. Ongoing exploration through informal talks among the six member states met North Korea’s outright rejection. Even though South Korea and China could enhance their cooperation in promoting resumption of the talks, formal or informal, North Korea possesses a veto power. Recently, it legitimized its refusal in a three-point statement:19 1) “its military capabilities for self-defense based on nuclear force are neither means for threatening anyone nor a bargaining chip for something,” i.e. its nuclear weapons are nonnegotiable; 2) “The DPRK’s nuclear weapons serve as self-defensive deterrent to cope with the constant nuclear threat and military invasion from the U.S. and as a force of justice to decisively repel the enemy’s invasion and deal a merciless retaliation in case a war breaks out”; 3) “the only way to prevent a war between the DPRK and the U.S., which lack even elementary trust in each other and have long stood in mistrust and hostility only, is for the former to bolster up its defense capabilities so as to ensure a balance of forces.” North Korea’s nuclear weapons serve to maintain a balance of power on the peninsula is its message, which projects a grim picture for the Six-Party Talks. With this caveat, we also need to fully understand, even if the talks can be renewed, South Korea and China might find themselves in conflict over issues, including the talks’ ultimate objectives and the ways to achieve them.

1. Kim Junghyun, “S. Korea floats idea of ‘reunification tax’ as debate fires up,” Xinhua News, August 16, 2010,http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/world/2010-08/16/c_13447471.htm.

2. Chang Jae-soon, “Park to launch unification preparatory committee,” Yonhap News, Feb. 25, 2014, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2014/02/25/63/0301000000AEN20140225005151315F.html.

3. Kim Boram, “S. Korea to raise $500 bln for unification: regulator,” Yonhap News, November 18, 2014, http://img.yonhapnews.co.kr/basic/home_english/14_images/seoul.gif.

4. “N. Korea’s per-capita GDP grows 4.8 pct in 2013: report,” Yonhap News, March 16, 2014, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2014/03/16/17/0401000000AEN20140316000900320F.html.

5. “Lee Myung-bak becomes SKorean president,” China Daily, February 25, 2008, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/world/2008-02/25/content_6481441.htm.

6. Lee Chi-dong and Lee Haye-ah, “Yun, Kerry say ‘no daylight’ between allies against N. Korea,” Yonhap News, May 18, 2015, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/national/2015/05/17/90/0301000000AEN20150517003054315F.html.

7. “U.S. Imperialists Will Face Final Doom,” Rodong News, February 5, 2015, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2015-02-05-0002&chAction=L; “S. Korean Authorities’ Policy of Toeing U.S. Policy Will Lead to Miserable End,” Rodong News, February 13, 2015, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2015-02-13-0015&chAction=L.

8. “DFRK Exposes True Colors of U.S.-S. Korea Alliance,” Rodong News, April 2, 2015, http://www.rodong.rep.kp/en/index.php?strPageID=SF01_02_01&newsID=2015-04-02-0001&chAction=L.

9. Park Geun-hye, “A New Kind of Korea,” Foreign Affairs, September 2011, http://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/northeast-asia/2011-09-01/new-kind-korea.

10. “N. Korea calls itself ‘nuclear-armed state’ in revised constitution,” Yonhap News, May 30, 2012, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/northkorea/2012/05/30/76/0401000000AEN20120530005200315F.HTML.

11. Bruce Klingner, “North Korea Heading for the Abyss,” The Washington Quarterly, Fall 2014, 173-174.

12. S Korea’s trade dependence on China posts near high in H1,” Xinhua News, August 17, 2011, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/business/2011-08/17/content_13132718.htm; “S. Korea’s exports to China decline in Q1,” Yonhap News, April 7, 2015, http://english.yonhapnews.co.kr/search1/2603000000.html?cid=AEN20150407002500320.

13. “Hu Jintao Zongshuji tong Chaoxian Laodongdang Zongshuji Jin Zhengri zai Changchun junxing huitan,” Xinhua News, http://news.xinhuanet.com/politics/2010-08/30/c_12500145.htm.

14. “Li Jinjun Dashi xiang Jin Yongnan Weiyuanzhang dijiao guoshu,” The Chinese Embassy Bulletin, http://kp.china-embassy.org/chn/dshd/dshd/t1250501.htm.

15. Lin Liping and Tan Jingjing, “Wu Dawei tan Zhongguo zai Liufang Huitan zhong suo panyan de Juese” Xinhua News, March 9, 2007, http://news.xinhuanet.com/world/2007-03/09/content_5824405.htm; Wang Fan, “Zhongguo yu Liufang Huitan”, China.com.cn, http://www.china.com.cn/international/txt/2009-09/10/content_18501358.htm.

16. Ryou Hayoun Jessie, “The Six Party Talks as a Viable Mechanism for Denuclearization,” Session Sketches II, Asan Plenum 2011, http://www.asanplenum.org/upload/0208/1/Session4GB[3]_1.pdf.

17. For recent efforts in this regard, see Duk-Min Yun & Wooseon Choi, “Breaking the North Korean Nuclear Deadlock: a Global Action Plan,” The Washington Quarterly, Fall 2014.

18. George Friedman, “The United States in Korea: A Strategy of Inertia,” Geopolitical Weekly, March 2012, https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/united-states-korea-strategy-inertia.

19. “U.S. Criticized for Attempt to Shift Blame for Ruptured DPRK-U.S. Talks,” Korean Central New Agency, May 30, 2015, http://www.kcna.kp/kcna.user.article.retrieveNewsViewInfoList.kcmsf.