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Monday, July 16, 2018, 11:45 (GMT+7)
Inter-Korean Summit – A chance for peace on the Korean peninsula

On April 27th, 2018, the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (DPRK or also known as North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (also known as South Korea) held a historic inter-Korean Summit. This is a positive move from the both sides which is highly appreciated and thought to open up an opportunity for restoring peace on this peninsula.

North Korean President Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in sign the joint statement after the meeting held on April 24th, 2018
(photo: Reuters)

According to analysts, in 7 decades of confrontation, the relations between America and South Korea, and DPRK came to the worst in 2017. Advocating the “America first” policy, after taking office, US President Donald Trump pursued a hostile policy against the nuclear program of the DPRK. The White House accused Pyongyang of testing nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles, saying that its tests were unacceptable provocative acts. To deter and prevent North Korea, America intensified military pressure, especially deployed its forces and strategic weapons including the Terminal High Altitude Air Defence (THAAD) to the Korean peninsula, and held small-scale US-South Korea drills. As for North Korea, it resolutely opposed Washington’s hostility and regarded military operations by the US-South Korea alliance as plots to invade this country. At the same time, it announced that it would be prepared to respond to the enemy’s acts of aggression with most catastrophic measures. Bold statements and “an eye for an eye” actions by America, South Korea and North Korea have pushed the relations between these countries into a “frozen” state, thereby leading to the strained atmosphere and risks of conflict and war on the Korean peninsula. The international community has expressed concern over the situation on the Korean peninsula and required relevant parties to restrain themselves to avoid the risks of conflict and war.

However, in 2018, the relationship between North Korea and South Korea has surprisingly become warmer, which is thought to be a “shift of the wind” from confrontation to dialogue. Leaders of the two countries have all made signals for peaceful talks to end confrontation and denuclearize the Korean peninsula. On January 9th, 2018, a high-level inter-Korean dialogue was held and initially achieved results of utmost importance. More specifically, North Korea agreed to dispatch a delegation of senior officials, athletes, supporters and journalists to attend PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games held in South Korea. The two sides also agreed to solve the “critical” issues related to the relationship between the two countries via dialogues for the sake of peace and unity on the Korean peninsula, including the issues: reuniting families divided by the Korean War (1950 – 1953); temporarily lifting sanctions; resuming the hot line and organizing military-defence exchanges to ease off the confrontation. It should be noted that leaders of the two sides agreed to hold the inter-Korean Summit on April 27th, 2018 which was believed to be a milestone in the relationship between North Korea and South Korea.

Results exceeding expectations

According to observers, the inter-Korean Summit was organized formally in a warm, friendly atmosphere. The Summit discussed and came to an agreement on a series of thorny issues which had been the root of the “hostility” between the two sides. It is noteworthy that leaders of the two countries issue a statement on “ensuring a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons through comprehensive denuclearization”. President of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in and President of the DPRK Kim Jong-un agreed to stop all hostile actions that could lead to military conflicts. To do so, since May 1st, 2018, the two countries have begun dismantling loudspeakers and means of propaganda which were used against each other along border. The two sides also pledged to establish a “peaceful zone” and conduct coordinated operations to minimize the risk of clashes in the Western maritime boundary and ensure safety for fishermen from the two countries in this sea. Moreover, the two sides were committed to regularly holding senior-level exchanges to continue discussing measures for alleviating tenseness and intensifying cooperation on defence and military fields; to expanding people-to-people diplomacy and organizing sports events and cultural exchanges. Leaders of the two countries also agreed to meet each other more regularly and talk to each other on the established hot line about related issues. More importantly, the two sides agreed to foster peaceful talks with America and China to officially end the 1950-1953 Korean War as in fact, the two countries are still in the state of war. To that end, talks, which might be three-way ones with the participation of the U.S. or four-way ones with the participation of the U.S. and China, and take place by the end of this year, would transform the Korean Ceasefire Agreement into a peace treaty and establish peace forever on the Korean peninsula. In the coming time, the two countries will found a joint permanent liaison office in North Korea’s Kaesong town and organize reunion programs for families divided by the Korean War, the first of which will be on August 15th, 2018 (the day when Korean peninsula was liberated from Japan after the World War II). Pyongyang decided to change its time zone to match Seoul’s. And President Moon Jae-in received the invitation to visit the capital city of Pyongyang of the DPRK this year.

It is believed that when the two Korean countries are still in the state of war, results of the inter-Korean Summit represent a “good wind”, beyond expectations, contributing to “warming” the relationship between the two countries and consolidating peace and stability of the region and the world.

A chance for peace on the Korean peninsula

According to experts, the decision on dialogue instead of confrontation made by the two Korean countries is mainly based on the following reasons. First, Pyongyang is changing its national strategy to “develop both national defence and economy” in which it advocates the development of nuclear weapons and long-range missiles to defend the country into a new strategy to “give priority to developing its economy and building a prosperous society”. In his 2018 new year’s address, North Korean President Kim Jong-un underlined the goals of developing the economy and improving the people’s life and social welfare. To achieve these goals, one thing that matters to Pyongyang is a peaceful environment for expanding international cooperation; therefore, fostering cooperation with its brother – South Korea – is a priority. Second, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who won the presidential election due to his support for the “Sunshine Policy” which had been deferred since 2008, attaches great importance to improving the relationship between the two Korean countries. He advocates cooperating with Pyongyang in building up peace and prosperity on the Korean peninsula. Third, reality has proved that the nuclear crisis on the Korean peninsular couldn’t be solved by military confrontation but peaceful talks. Military confrontation in the past 70 years has only caused misery, losses and separation for the people on the Korean peninsula. Thus, building up peace has become a burning desire of the people on the Korean peninsula. These are objective and subjective elements that make leaders of the two countries pursue dialogue for the sake of the common goal of removing disagreement and hatred, which will open up a golden chance to build a nuclear-free, peaceful, wealthy Korean peninsula. Addressing the press conference after the inter-Korean Summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in confirmed that “there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula, a new age of peace has begun”. Meanwhile, before the talks, North Korean President Kim Jong-un wrote that “A new history starts now. An age of peace, from the starting point of history” and said that “Same people, same blood, so we cannot be separated and should live together in unification”. On May 25th, 2018, North Korea destroyed the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, demonstrating its determination to fulfil its commitment to denuclearization. On May 26th, 2018, leaders of the two countries met each other to reaffirm their determination to completely remove nuclear weapons via peaceful talks. More importantly, the inter-Korean Summit has been seen as a breakthrough and the basis for leaders of America and North Korea to hold the historic Summit on June 12th, 2018 in Singapore. Politicians from many countries welcomed results of the inter-Korean Summit and the US-North Korean Summit, believing that the recorded results would help end the age of confrontation and open up a history of peace and cooperation on the Korean peninsula.

However, according to experts, in comparison with the two previous inter-Korean Summits (in 2000 and 2007), this inter-Korean Summit takes place in a much more different context, but its results are just the very first steps of a long, thorny route. Moreover, there exist historical deep disagreements caused by hatred between the two Korean countries that could not be resolved “overnight”. Also, the nuclear issues on the Korean peninsula are related to strategies and interests of various major powers, which could make the process of denuclearizatoon longer and more complex. It is hoped that “the door to peace” is more open than ever before on this peninsula. Therefore, the people of the two Korean countries and relevant parties should seize this golden chance to find the most proper solutions and make the Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, peaceful, stable, and prosperous.

Minh Duc

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