Contributed from Victoria
Never mind the headlines about the Trump-Kim meeting. They reveal very little of what is really going on. Nor is the issue the photo shoots, which all too often are used to divert from what is important.
This is a deadly serious matter. Part of the trouble, is that after years of demonising North Korea on the one hand and presenting its leaders as buffoons on the other, the caricature gets in the way of the reality.
North Korea has been presented as being a threat to the world. They aren’t an economic threat. The North Korean military does not exist outs its borders. Just how this so-called threat manifests itself, has never really been spelt out. Whether one approves of the internal politics or not is something else, and this should not distract from the need to secure the peace.
True, the North have some nuclear missiles that can be fired. It would be better if they didn’t exist. But this too should be seen within its context.
As a colony, Koreans suffered a long period of brutality. The Korean War in the 1950’s was horrendous. More bombs were dropped in the North than during the whole Second World War. Just about every family lost people. This is going to leave scars.
What has made it even worse in the long-run, is that the war was not conclusive and the stalemate has lasted up till now. This is for over half a century. A continuous war footing has been in place. The South has been heavily bankrolled by the United States and able ride the storm more easily than the North, which has paid a heavy price in terms of its economic and political development.
The United States has maintained a huge military presence south of the border. This has been met on the other side. Both have aimed nuclear weapons at each other. It is not hard to see that to lower the tension, the years of militarisation must come to an end. This goal that has not been possible till now. Changing this, needs both sides to stand down. Given the history, this is not going to happen, unless both sides do it together.
North Korea has been calling for this for and joint denuclearisation for years. It has been the United states side that has till now refused to back away. This is a little fact that has been ignored by much of the West and its media, which has opted for maintaining the pressure fr one side to stand down. North Korea happens to border China and Russia, and has therefore seen as strategically important.
Continuation of hostility over many years has fed the toxic atmosphere that has created the world’s most dangerous hot spot.
Recent developments have pulled the other way. Chief among them, is a greater willingness of both parts of Korea to move further along the road towards reconciliation. The result has been diplomatic achievements such as that over this year’s winter Olympic agreement, and joint meetings that has left the Trump led United States administration flat footed and having to charge after developments. The initiative has fallen into the hands of the Koreans.
At last week’s talks with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump agreed to put military exercises involving U.S. and South Korean forces on hold. This is very positive.
Most important, is the progress reported towards the complete demilitarisation of the Korean Peninsula. This means that nuclear weapons will be removed from the north and south, and the waters around them. It means the removal of United States nuclear weapons. This is a big shift. Up till now the demand has been that only the north’s capability be dismantled.
The second most important development is that there was talk about moving towards the ending of sanctions. They have been hurting the North’s economy, and their removal will send out a positive signal.
The agreement signed by both sides acknowledges that this is, “an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulation in this joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement “the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.
“President Donald J Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.”
Good sounding statements are one thing. To have real meaning, they must be converted into concrete measures, and the Agreement on its own, remains far from achieving this. On the positive side, it does help provide the conditions to nurture trust and make further progress possible.
A big factor behind the change, has been the diplomatic shift in North Korea. Years of a go it alone response to the rest of the world, has given way to engagement and building bridges. Just as important has been that for Donald Trump and the United States, an opportunity to salvage some ground had presented itself, after a series of diplomatic setbacks and rising global isolation. Both sides have taken hold of this opportunity.
Although the future remains uncertain, the world needs a resolution to the greatest threat to global peace in our time. Here is a chance, to finally put an end to the Korean War, and to start building the era of peace on the Korean Peninsula. Instead of being put to the needs of war, resources can be turned to making a better life for the Korean people, and working for the shared goal of reunification of the two halves of the country.
The next round of talks has been scheduled for August.