UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

Offsetting, contagion, and neutralization : the effects of “thick reinforcement” in the Six-party Talks Golobokov, Andrei


This paper addresses gaps in the existing literature on competition and accommodation dynamics among great and middle powers within multilateral security institutions, such as Six-Party Talks. The thesis asks why such security institutions show so much variation in outcomes, despite similar long-term power dynamics. For example, what explains the fluctuations in the performance of the 6-party talks over two decades: why were the 6-party talks initially successful, before experiencing stalemate, and, eventually collapse? In response, this paper conducts a plausibility probe in the case of Six-Party Talks. Most existing studies focus on the behavior of North Korea, the US, and China through a power lens. In contrast, I argue that a high degree of cooperation at the bilateral level among the majority of participants is a determining factor for the success of the talks. In particular, strong reciprocal engagements, or “thick reinforcement” resulted in clear unity among participating states and decisive collective action. When such conditions existed, we observe an uptick in the performance of Six-Party talks; and success in softening the hard stance of North Korea. The paper finds that different combinations of thick reinforcement and weak engagement across dyads cause different effects. A simple ‘contagion effect’ was sufficient for the success of the talks in 2007. Low levels of cooperation across dyads led to ‘offsetting’ and ‘neutralization’ effects, which then led to stagnation of the talks in 2003 – 2004 and to their collapse in 2008 – 2009.

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International