The Chinese government held an unusual commemorative ceremony this week to mark the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Six Party Talks and the eighth anniversary of the Six Party Joint Statement. The Joint Statement at the time seemed vague and incomplete, but it turns out that the consensus forged in favor of Korean peninsular denuclearization, peace, diplomatic normalization, and economic development was a high-water mark for the talks. In light of North Korea's repeated nuclear tests and its open rejection of its Joint Statement commitment to abandon nuclear weapons, the Six Party Talks have stalemated for five years. Now China is trying to revive the Joint Statement and breathe new life into the Six Party process.
In his opening remarks, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who had served as China's head of delegation in the early days of the Six Party Talks, stated that "denuclearization and peace and stability are directly connected and mutually reinforcing," charged all the parties to recommit to the Joint Statement, and advocated for institutionalization of the Six Party Talks, reflecting a renewed Chinese investment of political capital to restart talks. But this diplomatic initiative will prove to be a heavy lift. Absent at the commemoration were American, Japanese, and South Korean high-level representatives who boycotted the ceremony in the absence of North Korean commitments backed by action to return to denuclearization.