▲ President Donald J. Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, accompanied by their wives, arrive for talks at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, Nov. 7, 2017. White House photo by Shealah Craighead
After a year of threats and saber rattling going in both directions, it seems there could finally be a breakthrough in tensions between North Korea and the United States.
Last year saw Kim Jong-un making several trips to testing grounds to chart the progress of North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missiles, and there was speculation toward the end of the year that the regime’s nuclear program could be very close to having a weaponized projectile.
The Kim regime carried out a record number of tests last year, which included the detonation of a nuclear bomb, the sixth ever since nuclear weapons began being developed more than a decade ago.
After a successful Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, which included the participation of North Korea, it seems that diplomacy has finally taken a turn in a positive direction, as a South Korean delegation was invited to Pyongyang by Kim to discuss current affairs on the peninsula.
South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who is part of the South Korean delegation now in Washington to discuss the proceedings in Pyongyang, has said that American president Donald Trump is ready to accept an invitation to meet with Kim to discuss the denuclearization of the peninsula by May.
According to his statement, the North Korean leader will refrain from further testing of ballistic missiles and development of the nuclear program for the foreseeable future. Kim is also ready to accept the continuation of joint U.S.-South Korean military drills, which North Korea had traditionally referred to as a “rehearsal” for an invasion of the North.
But, while on the surface it seems that things are finally headed in the right direction, one has to wonder if there is a hidden agenda at play. Considering the level of hostility which prevailed for the greater part of last year, it is highly inconceivable that Kim would be capable of such an abrupt about-face knowing how much time and effort has already been invested in the perfection of developing an attack-ready arsenal for “operational deployment” at some point this year.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in is hailing the announcement of the summit between North Korea and the U.S. as a “historic milestone.”
Moon is credited as the chief architect of the policy of having North Korea scale back its threats of nuclear annihilation, but it would be a better idea not to get too far ahead of matters just yet. While progress between appointed delegations from the North and South have shown signs of evolving into something more, all will be dependent on what happens in the next month or so.
It is true that some media sources have quoted Kim as saying that he is open to creating a more peaceful future on the peninsula for all Koreans, it would be better not to take anything of note at face value just yet.
Despite recent developments, if the not-too-distant past is of any indication, this foreign policy powderkeg has the potential to steer in several different directions at a moment’s notice. A lot will be contingent on the outcome of the meetings between Moon’s envoys and the Trump administration in the coming days.
While it is fair to be optimistic, all sides will be approaching matters with a degree of heightened caution.
It could be a good first step toward the elimination of nuclear weapons and possible reunification, or it could lead down a road to a future no one would wish to imagine. Only time will tell.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
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