Peace in de-nuked Korean Peninsula

  • China’s crucial role

Days after North Korea lambasted the US for its “gangster-like behaviour”, US President Donald Trump expressed his confidence that his North Korean counterpart, Kim Jong-un, will honour the contract they both had signed for denuclearising North Korea.

“I have confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract we signed and, even more importantly, our handshake. We agreed to the denuclearisation of North Korea,” tweeted the US president on the social media network soon after the slurs came from North Korea.

Though people are skeptic about the fate of peace overture since the word go, there is a lot to know why President Trump looks optimistic about a peace treaty between North and South Korea.

Background interactions and interviews with the officials involved with the peace dialogue between South and North Korea have revealed that after the successful Summit meetings of Kim Jong-un with US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, it would be hard for the young North Korean leader to go back to his previous provocative and hostile policy.

However, the warning shots being fired by Pyongyang from time to time have reignited fears and doubts among policymakers in Seoul about fate of the peace talks. These fears are logical to some extent as North Korea has done the same in past too as successive peace overtures have failed to yield results. But it would be a blunder if President Kim tried to fool President Trump who has placed a huge political capital in these talks.

Trump, who already faces disapproval at home, is banking largely on peace overture with North Korea and if anything goes wrong, it may attract ire of the most “unpredictable” US leader in recent times.

Peace in the Korean Peninsula would be a dream achievement which can not only help resolve crisis in the Asia Pacific region but its outcome may also help achieve peace in the entire Asia continent. Trump would love to see this magic work as it may guarantee him another term in office. The other success Trump is seeking is Afghanistan where things have started to work for the US after Pakistan’s cooperation has recently opened a new window for peace.

Many experts in South Korea and US admit the fact that the young North Korean leader has taken a bold but wise decision to join the pace process, denuclearise North Korea and come out of its self-imposed isolation.

In North Korea, Kim Jong-un is the supreme leader who has final authority in all state affairs. One needs to understand that the past peace talks between North and South Koreas could not succeed as the initiatives were launched from lower levels of the government. However, this time around, President Kim Jong-un took the initiative which reflects that the opportunity is ripe.

Soon after his recent trip to Pyongyang, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also dropped a hint on the long process of denuclearisation, saying that getting North Korea to dismantle its nuclear and missile programs will be a “decades-long challenge”.

“Look, this is a decades long challenge, getting the North Koreans to make a fundamental strategic decision, which is that the nuclear weapons that they possess today frankly present a threat to them and not security,” Pompeo said while speaking to US troops during an unannounced stop in Afghanistan.

He said making the denuclearisation happen will take time and to think that this would happen in the course of a handful of hours “would have been ludicrous”.

There is no doubt that over the past few decades, North Korea had pursued an ambitious nuclear and missile programme and the denuclearising process would also take some time. One must understand that there is no immediate solution to the decades-old Korean issue.

South Korea has been pushing for Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Denuclearisation (CVID). For understanding the peace talks, there are three basic stages of peace talks. First stage is complete and irreversible denuclearisation of North Korea, followed by building of an inter-Korean bilateral relationship which would culminate into a third stage – development of a peace regime.

South Korean officials believe these three wheals need to go together. If the denuclearisation wheel will roll, the other two wheels will also roll together. With the denuclearisation process starting, the inter-Korean relations have already started to develop.

The meetings held between the military officials followed by interactions between transport and communication ministers from the two countries are encouraging signs. These stages would culminate into a Peace Regime between two Korean nations.

The talks between US and North Korea also discussed and recognised the need for peace regime, which reflects the significance for the peace regime which also includes guarantees of security to North Korea from the US. Hence, a real peace regime will guarantee the security of North Korean regime. There is a need that the US and North Korea issue a declaration for end of Korean War. This will provide the beginning of the peace regime.

Experts believe that it will be hard for North Korea to go back to its old provocative stance after the recent interactions. Once the US provides security guarantees to North Korea, the deepening ties between US and North Korea should be the way forward.

For the time being, the talks are between the US and North Korea and neither China nor Russia are eager to join the process. However, South Korean experts believe that for the time being, the focus would remain on inter-Korea and US-Korea talks. Once, these two tracks get going, Korea might switch over to six-party or any other framework of talks. China has certainly a role to play as it was China which had being a part of an arm deal between the UN and North Korea in year 1953.

South Korean wants to quickly carry forward the momentum, besides developing a detailed plan to keep the issue alive and keep it moving. The calendar is full with future interactions between the two Korean nations. There will be a family reunion in August 20-26 and more follow support meeting would be held. Representatives of South Korea have already landed in North Korea in order to prepare a Red Cross-facilitated meeting of families torn apart by the row between the two neighboring countries, which is scheduled to take place in a Mount Kumgang resort in August.

The delegation is made up of 22 people, including representatives of the Unification Ministry, the Red Cross and Hyundai Asan Company, which built a hotel in the region to facilitate contacts between separated relatives.

Besides, the military talks between both countries are ongoing to turn Western Sea into a Maritime Peace Zone. The area, better known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL), has for decades been a controversial maritime border, with the North occasionally staging attacks against South Korean ships.

During the April 27 meeting between presidents of the two Koreas, an agreement was reached to draw up a series of practical measures to guarantee safe fishing activities by both sides there, by designating the area around the NLL as a peace zone.

South Korea is working hard to build mutual trust and to make follow up of long-standing plan. Since the April 27 meeting, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, despite provocations, has remained steadfast for peace accord, saying that there will no Korean war in future and that he will work hard to resolve the issue on dialogue table.

Once the denuclearisation process goes ahead, economic aid and other concessions would also be used to ensure delivery of human right issues in North Korea.

Another major factor is the change of policy by South Korean government which has reversed its priority list. In the past, South Korean leaders used to follow the Sunshine Policy, calling for Reunification of North and South Korea.

However, after overtaking the affairs, President Moon Jae-in has shelved the reunification first policy of South Korea, putting denuclearisation of Korean Peninsula atop his priority list.

The South Korean leader believes that reunification should be a neutral process and one should not push for it prematurely. If exchanges and trade deals work at some later point of time, the people of the two countries might opt for reunification.

President Moon feels that reunification should not be used as an unnatural and artificial injection and rather peace talks should be followed by trade and economic overtures. Later, economic and trade unification should come while the political unification should be the last phase.

China’s role has been constructive in bringing peace in the Korean peninsula. South Korea believes China will continue to play a positive and significant role for peace in the peninsula. South Korea, despite the peace talks, will not abandon the human rights issue with North Korea and it would keep pressing the North Korean regime for improvement in the human rights situation the.