The leaders of North and South Korea, Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-In have concluded their historic meeting and left the world shocked at what may be the beginning of real and lasting peace in the peninsula. The Inter-Korea summit has been both eagerly anticipated and fraught with trepidation as the two leaders joined together and announced that they would work together to ensure complete denuclearization.
Among other agreements reached was Kim’s decision to immediately stop all nuclear missile testing. He said of the decision:
“It has taken 11 years for this historic moment to happen. Walking here, I wondered why it has taken so long.”
The highlight of the day-long summit must surely be the official cessation of war. The north and south have never actually ended the war between them, and although they have not had full-on hostilities for much of this time, the 65-year war status was still in place. The nations will be working towards a full peace treaty over the coming months.
Perhaps it was just the right time. Or perhaps it was a combination of global events and pressures that enabled long-held grudges to be cast aside. Either way, this could be the beginning of a bright future for more than 20 million souls who thought to live their lives in darkness.
An official joint statement has been signed by the leaders that includes a number of resolutions and promises:
Family Reunions: The nations have agreed to allow family members to reunite on both sides of the border. Due to ongoing hostilities between north and south, family members have been unable to either contact remotely or meet for many years. This allowance of personal reunification symbolizes the parallels between the divided peninsula.
Cessation of Propaganda: For many years, both sides have fought a propaganda war along the border that has included speeches and insults played over loudspeakers and leaflet drops. These will cease straight away.
Increased Cooperation and Joint Ventures: North and South Korea will participate jointly in sporting events as a unified Korea. They will also host visits at all levels of government and administration to help smooth out the reunification process.
The Nuclear Question
The most important element for international observers has been the situation of nuclear weapons. In the joint statement, the leaders wrote:
“South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
This is a big deal, but perhaps not big enough to satisfy everyone. The key stepping stones that need to be set-out in achieving denuclearization have yet to be stated; until they are, it is not possible to declare “mission accomplished” just yet.
Duyeon Kim of the Peninsula Future Forum in Seoul made it clear that this is a starting position rather than an end game. He said:
“Including the words ‘complete denuclearization’ is a win for Moon that he’s needed to ensure that this summit leads to a Trump-Kim summit. And in that sense, it really doesn’t matter if Kim Jong Un is serious because the real game will be between him and Trump on the nuclear issue.”
This is a sentiment echoed around many Asian think tanks and political publications today; they see it as the first step in a process that ensures the meeting between Kim and Donald Trump takes place without fractious surprises.
Based on the foreign policy successes of the last year and a half, it is perhaps not surprising that the most astute (and blunt) assessment of this historic event came from President Trump himself in the form of a tweet:
“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!”