Kim-Moon talks: historic beginning

The summit between North Korean President Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-In at Panmunjom village was undoubtedly historic. Not only was this the first meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea in more than a decade, but it was also the first time ever that a North Korean leader was setting foot on South Korean soil. More importantly, the summit’s outcome far exceeded expectations. The Panmunjom Declaration signed by the two leaders promises to rid the Korean Peninsula of nuclear weapons and to work towards negotiating by the end of the year a peace treaty to officially end the Korean War. Moon subsequently recounted to the media that Kim told him that his country would not need nuclear weapons if the United States commits to formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War and sign a non-aggression pact with Pyongyang. The North Korean president is also reported to have said that he would close a nuclear test site in May and invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the US to witness the process.

Not surprisingly, people in the two Koreas as well as the rest of the world are stunned with the positive news coming out of the Korean Peninsula. Through much of last year, it did seem that the world was on the brink of a nuclear war, thanks to tensions in the Korean Peninsula, and the war of words between Kim and US President Donald Trump. In the wake of the Panmunjom summit, there is a glimmer of hope. Of course, there is much scepticism over whether the erratic North Korean leader will actually deliver on his promises or is even serious about working towards better relations. Will the positivity simply peter out as it did during the “sunshine diplomacy” of the 1990s? A US-North Korea summit is expected to happen in a few weeks from now. Expectations are low as only a few months ago Trump and Kim were busy hurling abuses at each other and even threatening a nuclear exchange. The two are similar; both are erratic and undiplomatic. Still, if they summon the political will, they could at least keep the dialogue process alive.

There are several stumbling blocks ahead. North Korea’s definition of “denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula” is different from that of the US and South Korea.  Kim is expected to insist on the US giving up its nuclear umbrella over the Korean Peninsula and Northeast Asia. Will the US agree? It is important that the Korean people and their leaders are allowed to determine, decide and shape their destiny. Leaders in Washington and Beijing can support the peace process, not shape it.

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Kim-Moon talks: historic beginning

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