The Six-Party Talks are aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear program through a negotiating process involving China, the United States, North and South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Since the talks began in August 2003, the negotiations have been bedeviled by diplomatic standoffs among individual Six-Party member states – particularly between the United States and North Korea. In April 2009, North Korea quit the talks and announced that it would reverse the ongoing disablement process called for under the Six-Party agreements and restart its Yongbyon nuclear facilities. Because Pyongyang appears intent on maintaining its nuclear program, some experts are pessimistic the talks can achieve anything beyond managing the North Korean threat. The Obama administration has been pursuing talks with the other four countries in the process to bring Pyongyang back to the negotiation table. Alongside the United Nations' effort to sanction North Korea's nuclear and missile tests, "this regional partnership between the United States and the countries of Northeast Asia remains the best vehicle ... for building stable relationships on and around the Korean peninsula," writes CFR's Sheila Smith.
So far, the Six-Party Talks have failed to denuclearize North Korea and have brought few results. Several experts think North Korea is now determined to be recognized as a nuclear weapons state rather than to negotiate an end to its nuclear program. Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger writes in the Washington Post that "the issue for diplomacy has become whether the goal should be to manage North Korea's nuclear arsenal or to eliminate it." He argues any policy that does not eliminate the North's nuclear military capability "in effect acquiesces in its continuation."
After Pyongyang walked out of the Six-Party Talks in May 2009, the Obama administration has pursued negotiations with the other parties in the forum to signal that it hasn't abandoned the goal of North Korea's denuclearization. In testimony to a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in June 2009, CFR's Snyder said this new process "provides the best available means by which to increase pressure on North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks and to honor its commitments to denuclearization."