The world watched with curiosity as Donald Trump signed a historic pact with North Korean counterpart Kim Jong Un. Was this just lip-service or would there be some progress with North Korea?The meeting which was held in April saw for the first time a sitting US President meet with the North Korean leader, and the eyes of the global community were fixed on the spectacle.
Trump had hailed the Singapore Summit as a success and went as far as saying North Korea no longer posed a nuclear threat. This however was short-lived. The progress has been relatively slow as North Korea is yet to relinquish its nuclear weapons. Donald Trump even cancelled a trip by Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State as he thought that it would not yield any productivity.Time and time again deals have fallen through as North Korea would violate nuclear disarmament agreements.
On September 18, the North Korean leader met with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Pyongnang. The two leaders had had a meeting earlier in the year in the border village of Panmunjon. They both pledged to end the Korean War in the meeting that lasted more than 90 minutes. The meeting ended with a show of hugs and hand holding but this was yet again short-lived. North Korean State Reports then accused Seoul of bowing down to the US and supporting the sanctions imposed on North Korea.
The last time a South Korean leader was in the North Korean capital was 11 years ago. Moon Jae-in might cement his place in history as one of the greatest leaders if all goes according to plan. The 3-day meet concluded on September 20. Experts are sceptical that nuclear weapons were mentioned at all.
The South Korean leader brings with him wide prospects for North Korea. From Samsung, Hyundai, LG and many more, there are many possible investments. This however will be beneficial to both sides only if US-imposed sanctions are lifted against North Korea.
Moon Jae-in has to ensure something substantive should come out of the three day meet. There has been some diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea.
According to the Associated Press, “Mr Moon will try to get Mr Kim to express more clearly that he’s prepared to abandon his nuclear weapons, which could create momentum for a second Kim-Trump summit.”
Last year, tensions were high between the two Korean nations. A barrage of nuclear tests by North Korea put the global community on high alert. Complete dismantlement of it’s only known nuclear test site is the main criteria for sanctions to be lifted.
Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security stated, “The two Koreas are moving ahead with improving relations on all fronts including reducing military tensions.” He also added, “But things could get dicey with Washington if their activities run up against sanctions or if they do things without keeping Washington in the loop.”
North Korea has always seen the United States as an “imperialistic aggressor” and Duyeon Kim’s statement only solidifies the role of the US.
In a statement to news.com.au, Dr James Reilly, associate professor in the Department of Government and International Relations at the University of Sydney stated that this summit will hold symbolic importance emphasizing, “I think for Moon, it’s an important moment in his process of engaging with the North. For Moon it’d be very nice to have a successful summit, and to show the engagement strategy is on track.” He also added, “He’ll be seeking an agreement on joint cooperation, getting on track with the progress of joint projects.”
North Korea has not had the benefit of good publicity and there will be some touchy subjects. South Korea’s obedience to US-led sanctions for one. North Korea’s abysmal human rights record for another.
Although the Korean War ended 70 years ago, there has always been growing hostility between the two nations. In 1953, war between the two nations ended in armistice after 5 million people had died with millions injured and displaced.
During the meet in April Kim Jong Un was committed to the “complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.” The choice of words has been highly criticized by experts who say it is too vague with no concrete plan or timeline.
North Korea’s history in this regard is one of false commitments. Whether this time will be any different, the global community will just have to wait and see. Pyongyang, in earlier negotiations had certain terms and conditions to be fulfilled for North Korea to ever consider denuclearization. If the elephant in the room is mentioned, will Moon Jae-in try to salvage some of the nuclear disarmament agreement?
Experts are mostly of the opinion that there will be little in terms of concrete results. North Korea has always justified its nuclear weapons. It deemed the US as a “direct nuclear threat” to the country but there does seem to be a slow shift. The gradual thawing of North Korea is evident. Kim Jong Un has in recent months tried to change his image. Skillfully and strategically he has done so. Donald Trump went from calling him “rocket man” to “honourable.”
Strides have been made but how far will these strides go. Guarantee is always a risk with North Korea. Even if at the end of the summit there is a commitment to complete denuclearization, this does not mean anything until concrete steps are being taken.
Author: Jessica Passah
Jessica Passah is a Staff Writer. She has a B.A in English Literature from Hans Raj College, New Delhi, and an M.A in Public Administration from the Indira Gandhi National Open University.