Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

War & Peace on the Korean Peninsula

This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency on June 11, 2008, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (L) inspecting Korean People's Army unit 958 at an undisclosed location. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

This undated picture, released from Korean Central News Agency on June 11, 2008, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Il (L) inspecting Korean People's Army unit 958 at an undisclosed location. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)


As for the other aspects of the 1994 Agreed Framework, progress has been conspicuous by its virtual absence. Although the United States appears to have agreed in principle to provide assurances to the DPRK against the threat of nuclear weapons, the US does not intend to advance this agenda further until there is complete confidence of full compliance with the NPT - including verification by the IAEA of the accuracy of North Korea's initial report on the quantity of nuclear material already in its possession.

Finally, the prospect of a normalisation of economic and political relations between the DPRK and the US is now the subject of the Policy Review being undertaken (and, we understand, now completed) by former US Defence Secretary William Perry.

A second mechanism that has emerged for the management of political and military tensions on the Korean Peninsular are the so-called Four Party Talks, beginning in 1996 and involving the DPRK, South Korea, the US and China.

The express purpose of the Four Party Talks is "to initiate a process aimed at achieving a permanent peace agreement on the Peninsular". Substantive progress has been marginal - other than the establishment of two sub-committees: one to discuss replacing the existing, fragile armistice with a permanent peace treaty; and the other to formulate possible confidence building measures to reduce tensions. The sixth round of these talks are scheduled to start in Geneva on Thursday. The United States side is led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for North Asia, Charles Kartman, who was recently in Canberra.

While nothing dramatic is likely to emerge from the formal agenda of these talks, one of their important by-products has been to provide the only regular mechanism for high level vice foreign ministerial contact between the two Koreas themselves.

The third main mechanism for maintaining dialogue with the North are the Inter-Korean Talks themselves - the most recent of which occurred in Beijing on the 21st June. These talks focus on a range of economic and social initiatives aimed at developing solutions to the divided families issue, agricultural development in the North as well as humanitarian assistance.

These Inter-Korean Talks have been made possible in large part by the inauguration of President Kim Dae-jung in the South and the initiation of his so-called "Sunshine Policy" of "constructive engagement" with the North. This Inter-Korean dialogue has had a particularly short and rocky history - although it's interesting to note that the 21 June meeting proceeded notwithstanding the fire fight which occurred in the Yellow Sea on 15 June between North Korean and South Korean naval vessels. Once again, progress through these talks has been judged by the South, in particular, to be unsatisfactory - although interestingly neither side exhibits an interest in abandoning the mechanism altogether.

However, continued DPRK military provocations such as the Yellow Sea incident, repeated submarine incursions as well as last year's ballistic missile test only serve to erode the domestic political support in Seoul for the continuation of Kim Dae-jung's Sunshine Policy.