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Six-Party Talks and China’s Goldilocks Strategy: Getting North Korea Just Right

China’s ideal outcome for North Korea is a Goldilocks state—one that is not so strong to challenge China or so weak that its implosion threatens Chinese interests. China’s multifaceted approach relies on economic engagement, bi- lateral interactions, and reducing North Korea’s international isolation through promotion of multilateral talks. Chinese strategists believe that denuclearization requires not only engagement, but ultimately the reform and opening of North Korea’s economy and society, which Beijing expects would enhance the North’s security and ensure its long-term survival. The challenge facing Northeast Asia, however, is deep mutual mistrust in the region and the underlying problem of China’s own insecurity, neither of which are effectively addressed by the six- party talks or other regional architectures.

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