Foreign Affairs, Nuclear Weapons

Living History with Minister Song Min-soon

Negotiating the September 19 Joint Statement

This Living History interview features Song Min-soon, the former South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the National Security Advisor to President Roh Moo-hyun (2006- 2008). He was director general for North American affairs and South Korean chief delegate during the Six-Party Talks in 2005. He played a key role in the multilateral denuclearization agreement with North Korea, involving the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, and Russia, achieved in September 2005.

In this interview, Minister Song describes how each six-party member’s distinct role and agenda contributed to the talks. As the head of the South Korean delegation, he worked with other members to achieve the agreement that came to be known as the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. This joint statement set out terms for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs. It also defined denuclearization as the “abandonment of all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs” in return for security guarantees, energy assistance, and normalization of relations. The agreement led to North Korea’s shut down of its plutonium production plant at Yongbyon in 2007; on-site inspections by nuclear experts of the six-party countries; the surrender of operating records; and the destruction of the cooling tower at the nuclear plant. In the interview, Minister Song reflects on the highs and lows of the negotiation process, why the agreement faltered, and what we can learn from this experience. Please see below for more on this unique and personal interview with former minister Song Min-soon.1

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  1. The authors wish to thank Sera Song, an intern in the CSIS Korea Chair, for her invaluable assistance in support of this project.