North & South Korea Starting Anew

The display of a new friendship between the leaders of North and South Korea is being taken with mixed feelings by the world. The coming together of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-In on Friday towards the handshake of peace was viewed all over the globe. Both men came and crossed the raised slab that demarcated the border where North Korea began from where the floor looks sandy, while South Korea from where the floor was covered with gravel. The reason why people harbor suspicions is that this is certainly not the first time that an attempt at peace has been tried in the region. Several attempts have been made that were stalled due to the long standing differences between both nations that are not only divided on the basis of ideology, but due to their economic standing and international relations and leanings. Each side wants to reunify, but the North wants a united communist while the South wants a free capitalist government. The current attempt at peace between the two countries show a divergence from previous attempts as they have agreed up on many controversial issues. Both countries want to decide their future without the United States or China imposing it on them. The problem is that the two super powers would have to participate in any peace negotiation between North and South, and oversee a complicated and long process that could end up with a U.S. withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula. While many American presidents have expressed a desire to bring home the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, for Trump it may be politically difficult to accept a leader like Kim. In terms of humanitarian issues, both nations agreed that families that were separated by the Korean War should be reunified. When the Korean War broke out, tens of thousands of North Koreans fled to the South, and left family members in North Korea. The issue of family reunification has lingered since the 1953 Korean War Armistice Agreement that ended the fighting but not the war. Several family reunification events have occurred in the past years. In order to promote balanced economic growth and co-prosperity of the Koreans, there’s a strong need to adopt practical steps towards the connections and modernization of the railways and roads on the eastern transportation corridor. This represents good will on both sides to promote joint infrastructure projects for economic development. Also, both South and North Korea agreed to completely cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain, including land, air and sea. The South Koreans would want the North to refrain from missile and nuclear tests, which Kim has already suspended i.e., a complete denuclearization, assuring a nuclear free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

With these key agendas being on the table, there is great hope that things may be taking a positive turn for the Koreans, both South and North. Despite the fact that analysts are terming them as non-beneficiaries of a unification, but at the end of the day, it is the Korean nation at large that stand to benefit from a permanent truce.

Hailing a “new era of peace”, North Korea leader Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, sealed their talks with a joint declaration, and a bear hug, reaffirming their commitment to complete denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

The historic summit also agreed to push for three or four-way talks involving the US and China to replace the Korean armistice with a peace treaty. In his first ever speech to the world, standing outside the Peace House on the demilitarised border zone, Kim Jong-un first thanked Mr Moon and the South Korean people for their warm welcome. It took a long time for the two Koreas to come together and to hold hands and we have long waited for this moment to happen, all of us,” he said.

“As I stand here today I can see that South and North Koreans are the same people, they cannot be separated. We are compatriots We should not be confronting each other, we are the same people and should live in unity. I hope we will be able to live very peacefully in the future, as soon as possible.”

He pledged his support for “permanent peace”, adding “we will adopt the Panmunjom declarations while the whole world is watching us. I believe the declaration…will never let us repeat our past mistakes.” Kim expressed hope that one day, South and North Korean citizens would be able to use the same road that he had to reach the summit. He also said:

“Panmunjom is a symbol of pain and suffering and division but it will turn into a symbol of peace. Using one language, one culture, one history South and North Korea will be reunited as one country, thus enjoying everlasting peace and prosperity”. President Moon praised the “precious agreement and declared a “new era of peace”, pledging “there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula.”

In the actual declaration the two leaders vow “that they will not use any form of force against each other” and agree to strictly abide by the agreement. The South and the North have also agreed to “gradually realise arms reduction when their military tension is removed and trust is practically established.” The two sides also agreed to set up a liaison office, continue future talks and reintroduce the long-stalled reunions of families separated by the division of the two Koreas.

After announcing their declaration, Kim and Mr Moon joined their wives, Ri Sol-ju and Kim Jung-sook for a banquet. They also were happy that the summit was a success.

In coming days both Kim and Moon will seek meetings with the United States and possibly China – both of them parties to the ceasefire. This will be done with a view to declare an end to the war and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime. Moon would visit Pyongyang in the fall, and both sides will have regular meetings and direct telephone conversations.

This truce will be augmented further with a reunion of families left divided when the Korean War ended, one of the most emotive issues for the people of the two countries. World leaders reacted positively to the summit, with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe calling it “good news”. Donald Trump also reacted positively to the meeting, saying: “After a furious year of missile launches and Nuclear testing, a historic meeting between North and South Korea is now taking place. Good things are happening, but only time will tell.”

Way Forward

Both leader’s interests are broadly aligned. They want to claim the summit as a success and both sides know the real goal is an agreement between the US and the North. Seoul has also suggested it could try to replace the current armistice agreement with a formal peace treaty, but it wants the North to agree to denuclearise. Analysts claim for Moon, the summit is valuable because it makes it harder for the United States or North Korea to escalate tensions and gives him a lever to push both countries toward Moon’s ultimate goal: a comprehensive US-North Korea deal. For Kim, it’s a way of increasing his options, putting pressure on the United States to deal with him on his terms, and convincing the world he is acting in good faith so that the blame for any future setbacks will be on the United States and not North Korea.

Kim will also likely be looking for relief from the sanctions currently imposed on his country. North Korea will be focusing on repairing diplomatic ties and figuring out how they can repair their economy, and Moon also wants to look at restarting Inter-Korea economic cooperation.

Stating a commitment to a permanent peace treaty to end the Korean War is a feature of previous inter-Korean summit declarations. But in this case, the call has added impetus, as a peace treaty might be the only way forward in an expanded round of engagement that included the United States. If North Korea refused to relinquish its nuclear weapons, and there is little evidence to suggest otherwise, there is no other goal toward which negotiations between the three parties could focus. In Article 3.1, the two Koreas have reaffirmed their non-aggression pact from the 1992 Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, and Exchanges and Cooperation. While the non-aggression clause has been standard fare in joint declarations since that time, this clause has added resonance in the context of the threats of war emanating from the Trump administration over the past year. Article 3.2 discusses phased disarmament. However, this relates to conventional forces mobilised against each other, and not to nuclear weapons, with the added caveat that other confidence-building measures have been implemented and that “military tensions” (read “the US threat”) have been alleviated.

Like most of the clauses in the Panmunjom Declaration, the veiled reference to the United States is a good example of the negotiated compromise and coded language of the final text. Article 3.3 talks to the larger great power context by calling for the participation of the original signatories of the Korean War armistice in negotiating a peace treaty. That objective is complicated by the Republic of Korea not being a signatory to the armistice agreement.

The South was represented by the United States in those negotiations, which acted on behalf of the United Nations forces. South Korea will need to be included as a sovereign signatory to a formal treaty to end the Korean War. Most media attention has focused on Article 3.4, which calls for “complete denuclearisation” and “a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula”. This is in addition to the call in Article 1.1 for both parties to work together on implementing the 2005 Joint Statement on denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula and the 13 February Agreement of 2007.

However, this clause does not mean North Korea has committed to denuclearisation as that concept is understood by the Trump administration (CVID, or “complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearisation”). The North Korean interpretation of a nuclearfree Korea includes the full nuclear weapons relinquishment of the United States as well – something that is obviously not going to fly in Washington.

In stating that “South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,”. There is little evidence in the Panmunjom Declaration that the South Koreans have attempted to test the waters for an aggressive American negotiating agenda at the upcoming Trump-Kim summit. There was no statement on specifics like a nuclear weapons freeze or missile testing moratorium. Instead, there seems to be more evidence here of an attempt to firewall the Korean Peninsula against an overly aggressive Trump gambit. A US-DPRK summit based solely around the US-CVID agenda is not the best solution for a problem in this context, as there are no points of convergence between Washington and Pyongyang. A negotiating agenda that includes a pathway to a formal treaty to end the Korean War has a more realistic chance of progress

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About Dr. Lubna Umar 10 Articles
The author is the Editor of Mélange Intl. Magazine and The Asian Telegraph & Research Associate Center of Pakistan & International Relations (COPAIR).