Lasting Peninsula peace may start with Winter Olympics

Leaderette

SEOUL – US and South Korea military forces have postponed joint-military exercises until af
ter next month’s Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. During a phone conversation between US President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon Jae-in, both agreed it would be best to focus on security during the games.
Afterwards, Trump took to Twitter and said talks and dialogue between the two countries on the peninsula would not have happened if he wasn’t firm and willing to commit “total might” against North Korea.
Efforts from South Korea and North Korea to develop their relationship by using the Winter Olympics as a platform, has infused new blood into the peninsula situation. Until now, the US has remained vigilant. South Korea has always wished for a safe Winter Olympics, while worried that positive communication between Seoul and Pyongyang would inspire US dissatisfaction.
At this critical juncture, Chinese Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Kong Xuanyou will go to Seoul and meet with Li Hoon, South Korea’s new six-party talks envoy. The planned meeting provides clues into the future development of the standoff on the peninsula.
Loyal adherence to the goal of a Korean peninsula free of nuclear weapons, and supporting dialogue and contact that alleviates tension should be the fundamental attitude of the global community regarding North Korea’s nuclear issue. Without a denuclearization consensus in place, easing tension in the region will be impossible. Without stimulating motivation, promoting such a specific goal cannot be carried out. It is a long-term predicament requiring a long-term commitment.
Obviously, North Korea is buckling over UN sanctions and has extended an olive branch to South Korea. The logic here is to see if the South is willing to begin a new friendly relationship with the North. But why do the US and other nations remain stubborn on this issue? Maybe the new sport of communication will serve as an ice-breaker helping both sides develop economically and politically, together.
Pyongyang would love for this to happen, but under the condition that its nuclear power program goes unharmed.
Of course, the attitude in Washinton remains adamantly opposed to such a relationship. Until Pyongyang abandons its nuclear and ICBM programs, Washington’s strategy will continue on the same course, exerting heavy pressure, and maybe enough to start a war. Even though Washington is not against the two countries contacting one another and they agreed to halt upcoming joint-military exercises, their attitude hasn’t changed.
We can expect a short period of relaxed behavior from both sides, where the “mutual suspension” proposal will find acceptance from both sides of the peninsula. It is a delicate time, and all parties should remain calm and return to the negotiating table to address denuclearization on the peninsula.
During the days of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il, Pyongyang could envision a peninsula free of nuclear weapons. But over the years, North Korea’s nuclear arsenal has developed as a result of foreign provocation. And as long as such outside influences remain unchanged, then the end goal of ridding the peninsula of nuclear weapons will be impossible.
The US and North Korea gave up on the notion of maintaining a bilateral mutual trust for one another long ago. Either side only knows how to respond to each other’s hostility. And where Washington is concerned, their focus is to remain politically consistent on North Korea. Meanwhile, Pyongyang is only a few steps away from achieving military nuclearization, which they are not willing to abandon.
The relationship between the US and North Korea is at a critical stage where it cannot continue in such a fashion. And South Korea can no longer endure the pain their relationship has caused. Seoul has never wanted a war on the peninsula and took it upon themselves to resume contact without asking for Washington’s permission. But because of South Korea’s allied bond with the US and Japan, they view Seoul’s recent action as an act of cowardice and deceit.
It is interesting that as one of the important parties directly involved with the peninsula crisis, South Korea does not play a dominant role in shaping or influencing its course. Instead, South Korea is viewed as a strategic military force readily available in the event of a conflict on the peninsula or anywhere throughout the Northeast Asian region. As for the US and North Korea, their combined attitudes will influence the future of negotiations and the goal of achieving denuclearization.
It should not go unnoticed how China and Russia have started to flex their power and influence. Without the support from these two nations, the international community would never reach any UN agreements, and the process of denuclearizing the Korean peninsula would be a pipe dream.
The upcoming Winter Olympics provided South Korea and North Korea with the opportunity to resume contact with one another, and they took it. Regardless of how they feel about one another, for them to make contact on their own is a welcomed surprise. The easing tension between the two won’t place enough pressure on Washington nor will it influence the goal of a denuclearized Pyongyang. Continued dialogue is needed, or this level of calmness that exists between the two nations right now will be nothing more than a passing phase.
The six-party talks should be resumed, and opportunities need to be created so peace can continue. And for this to happen all six nations involved will need to make a contribution that moves the end goal forward, rather than pushing it back. Although relations between the US and North Korea remain intense, neither side wants a war, and nor do they have anything in common.
Six-party delegates from China and South Korea will meet tomorrow in Seoul, and a bright future filled with peace and calm is the goal that hopefully will be realized.
—Courtesy: Global Times

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