In a historic moment, the leaders of the two Koreas meet tomorrow in the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ). Contrary to its name the DMZ is among the world’s most heavily fortified borders. It was where the ceasefire which stopped the Korean War was negotiated six-and-a-half decades ago. That conflict officially continues to this day, and a real and long-lasting peace is one of the topics on the agenda for this summit. Moon Jae-in is an acolyte of ex-President and Noble Peace Prize laureate Kim Dae-jung, who won the prize for his Sunshine Policy, an approach toward North Korea which opened up a dialogue between the two nations, after years of acrimony
Moon Jae-in was urged to continue this policy by the elder statesman himself nine years ago, as he related to a group of journalists in May 2017, before he was elected to the presidency. He has secured a dramatic turnaround in relations with the hermit kingdom. As early as late last year war looked much more likely than any kind of official peace. The Kim Jong-un administration had followed a sabre-rattling policy of nuclear weapons test, which included the detonation of a thermonuclear device in September 2017, as well as the expansion of its ballistic missile capabilities. President Trump nicknamed the North Korean dictator ‘Little Rocket Man’ during these tense moments and threatened that Kim Jong-un and his foreign minister ‘won’t be around much longer’ if they continue their policies.
Instead of war, there is a summit planned between Trump and the authoritarian Kim. While no date has been fixed, it is expected to take place before the end of the summer. The precise location and date will be another key talking point for the two Korean leaders. Mongolia, positioning itself as the Switzerland of Asia, is a strong contender to host the summit, though there could be other options such as the DMZ. Kim promised to talk about denuclearisation in return for sanctions being lifted on the economy of the struggling and poor North. Trump’s pick as the next Secretary of State, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo, secretly met with the North Korean leader to hash out the details of the meeting. While critics at home argue that Trump may be been taken advantage of, the situation appears far better than it did only three months ago.
Diplomatic action, highlighted at the Winter Olympics in South Korea earlier this year where the two Koreas entered in the Opening Ceremony under the same flag, has brought about this massive volte-face, and Moon must be given the lions share of credit for this. Working in imitation of his political idol, the Korean peninsula looks a much safer place. However, expectations must be realistic. There is still the possibility that talks will break down, which may lead to a situation worse than before. Whatever the outcome may be, this is certainly an important moment in Korean history.
Photo by Buiobuione – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=62787801
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