I just read the latest joint statement agreeded to by the six parties (China, Russia, Japan, the U.S. and North and South Korea) and I almost cried. Not out of elation or sadness, but because it reminded me so much of the 1994 Agreed Framework and 1994 always makes me think about the death of Kurt Cobain. Here is a summary of today's statement:
I. The Six Parties reaffirm their intention to implementing the September 2005 joint statement in a 'step-by-step' fashion. (see this ACW post for a good description of how Joe Rood's unilateral reinterpertation of U.S. commitments in the 2005 JS caused implementation to fall apart before it even began)
1) North Korea will power down and seal the graphite-moderated Magnox reactor at Yongbyon.
2) North Korea will disclose all of its nuclear activities.
3) The U.S. and North Korea will initiate talks to normalize relations, including consideration of taking Pyongyang off the state-sponsors of terror list and easing some unilateral sanctions.
4) Japan and North Korea will initiate talks to normalize relations, including North Korean grievances originating from the Japanese occupation and the status of the Japanese citizens kidnapped by the Norks back in the 70s (not explicitly stated, but definitely in the subtext).
5) Reaffirms the first three clauses of the JS issued two years ago. This includes commitments to normalizing relations all around, an affirmation that U.S. nuclear weapons are off the Korean peninsula and will not return and commitments to provide energy aid to Pyongyang.
III. The Six Parties will establish working groups on Korean denulearization, energy assistance to the North, the normalization of relations between Pyongyang and Tokyo/Washington and a East Asian 'peace and security' mechanism.
IV. The North Koreans will receive up to 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil (with an initial shipment of 50,000 tons) once they declare and begin dismantling their nuclear program.
V. The Six Parties agree to future ministerial meetings to monitor implementation and explore other subjects to promote 'peace and security' in East Asia.
VI. The Six Parties will work to build mutual trust and peace in the region. Peace between the North and South will be handled in a different (probably bilateral) venue.
VII. The Six Parties will meet again on March 19th for the sixth round of talks.
The lack of a firm promise to provide North Korea with a permanent substitute for the energy generated by Yongbyon (i.e. light-water nuclear reactors) and a commitment to continue six-party consultations on larger security issues are the two major differences between today's JS and the Agreed Framework.
These changes definitely reflect the Bush administration's qualitatively different approach to security East Asia and nonproliferation. In terms of East Asia, the U.S. has chosen a position that is long on revisionist rhetoric (shaping China's rise, regime change in North Korea, etc.), but is short on similar policies. The administration's most substantial policy shift in my eyes was Bush solidifying the status quo in the Taiwan Strait back in 2003 by writing off U.S. support for a unilateral declaration of Taiwanese independence. That was a pretty big step away from revisionism for a man who declared the the U.S. will do "whatever it takes to help Taiwan defend herself" in the opening days of his presidency.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the White House is still moving away from the 'hub-and-spoke' model of relations towards East Asia that the U.S. has used to maximize its leverage over Japan, Korea and Taiwan for the past 40 years. Converting the six-party format into a semi-permanent regional security dialogue is a critical first step towards East Asian security integration. One thing is for sure, this certainly wouldn't have been possible with a sino-phobic Rumsfeld still at the helm of the DOD.
The JS is also interesting because it toes the administration's belief that nuclear proliferators should completely abdicate their right to even peaceful, proliferation resistant nuclear technology. Previous administrations have been willing to trade light-water reactors and the Additional Protocol in exchange for dismantlement, but the White House's expandive definition of 'nuclear capability' generally foreclose that route.
This may be practical option for states with minimal nuclear know-how like Iran, but it doesn't seem very practical for North Korea considering that they (kind of) crossed the nuclear threshold last year.
This may all be a moot in few months anyways, considering each party's seeming inability to implement their side of the JS in good faith. Then again, the years I've spent studying Japan, Taiwan and China have given me a pretty cynical view of the East Asian security environment.