Inter-Korean talks become starting point for long process of building relationships
8 May 2018. PenzaNews. The DPRK readjusted its time zone to match South Korea’s, moving its clocks half an hour forward by the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme People’s Assembly of the country.
“The time-resetting is the first practical step taken after the historic third North-South summit meeting to speed up the process for the North and the South to become one and turn their different and separated things into the same and single ones,” the Korean Central News Agency says.
On April 27, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Moon Jae-in of the South for the first time met at the border point of Panmunjom and agreed to work to formally end the Korean War in 2018.
“The North and the South agreed to declare the end of war this year, […] replace the Armistice Agreement [of 1953] with a peace accord and actively promote the holding of North-South-US tripartite or North-South-China-US four-party talks for the building of durable and lasting peace mechanism,” says the Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of Korean Peninsula.
Meanwhile, the results of a survey conducted by the South Korean МВС channel on May 1 show a sharp increase in the popularity of the DPRK leader Kim Jong-un among South Koreans, which grew from 10% to 77.5% in a month and a half. Thus, the support for the North Korean leader in South Korea reached values comparable to the ranking of Moon Jae-in, which makes 86%.
“If this goes on, our next president will be Kim Jong-un,” somberly joked Hong Jun-pyo, Chairman of the leading opposition Free Korean Party, representing the interests of the most conservative circles in the country.
Commenting on the significant warming of bilateral relations, Clive Williams from the Australian National University stressed the extreme importance of the summit.
“The meeting was important as it showed a willingness on the part of both leaders to break new ground in relation to the bilateral relationship. There is already peace on the peninsula in the sense that there is a lack of conflict. A peace agreement would however bring to an end what is effectively a ceasefire arrangement and replace it with a more positive framework with which to move forward,” the expert told PenzaNews.
At the same time, the only way of achieving lasting peace on the peninsula would be through reunification – and that is not going to happen, he said.
According to him, in the current situation, the international community should let the main parties – China, the US, and North and South Korea – work out a positive way forward.
“It seems unlikely that the North will be prepared to denuclearise to the point of discarding its nuclear missiles given the US's record of overthrowing non-nuclear regimes and its failure to meet its commitments to North Korea under the 1994 Agreed Framework – soon after the agreement was signed, control of the US Congress passed to the Republican Party which did not support the agreement,” Clive Williams suggested.
He also reminded that the history of the US-North Korea relationship “since 1953 is in fact littered with broken promises by both parties.”
“At some point therefore the UN may need to step in and broker a new agreed framework [on the establishment of relations between South Korea and the DPRK],” the analyst added.
In turn, Patrick Sensburg, German MP from the CDU/CSU fraction, paid special attention to the lack of proper level of initiative from the United Nations in the settlement of the situation on the Korean peninsula.
“The international community can help, but Pyongyang has to give up its nuclear programs and has to accept controls. It is most unfortunate, that the UN is not acting strong in this issue, but weak – like in so many other fields in the last years,” the politician said.
In his opinion, the rare summit became possible after months of little steps of improving relations between the two countries.
International experts concerned about escalating North Korea crisis ahead of Olympics
“Maybe, one important factor could have been the power of the Olympic Spirit. In my opinion, the present situation can be a starting point for a process to normalize the bilateral relations. On the other hand we must not forget that there were similar talks in recent years which unfortunately didn’t lead to an improvement of the situation between the two countries,” Patrick Sensburg reminded.
From his point of view, the international community should support these small steps of North and South Korea towards the peace treaty.
“Yet, everything is still open, but the direction is right. Trade can be a key to help the process and support talks on an international level. When the USA, China, Russia and the EU will assist the process, it can be successful,” the Bundestag deputy said.
Meanwhile, Grant Newsham, Senior Research Fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies in Tokyo, with experience as a US Diplomat and US Marine Officer, was skeptical about the bilateral meeting between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone.
“The two Korean leaders said some nice things, but keep in mind that different Korean presidents and different Kim’s have had similar meetings and said similar things in the past. Is there some reason to believe this time the outcome will be different? That’s hard to imagine,” the analyst said.
“Kim Jong-un seemed to be in a good mood, but I don’t think that translates into better prospects for peace on the peninsula – or North Korea giving up its nuclear weapons,” Grant Newsham added, suggesting that the DPRK leader might genuinely reform.
At the same time, he recalled earlier charges of killing Kim Jong-nam in Kuala Lumpur, and a functioning system similar to the Gulag, “where tens of thousands of Koreans are foully treated.”
According to the expert, South Korean president Moon Jae-in is “dangerously naïve and too keen to reach an agreement with the North.”
“I would imagine Kim will gladly take whatever Moon has to offer, but will never quite get to point where he gives up North Korea’s nuclear weapons,” the former US Diplomat stressed and added that for the last 25 years the DPRK was offered up money, food, oil, and security guarantees, but the Kim’s have been developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.
In his opinion, the Americans and the international community should keep up the pressure on North Korea and on China.
“Not the Americans and South Koreans should convince Kim to accept their security guarantees and economic aid, […] but Kim must prove to the civilized world that he is no longer a cruel tyrant, and deserves to be allowed into polite society. What can Kim do as an initial sign of good faith? Close down his North Korean ‘Gulag.’ This is a reasonable requirement. If Kim does something similar, then I’ll be impressed. Otherwise, we’ve seen this movie before,” Grant Newsham said.
In turn, Xu Jin, Research Fellow at Institute of World Economics and Politics of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, called the inter-Korean talks “a very good beginning of the reconciliation process of the two sides.”
“The discourses in the statements are positive and it is the first time that the leaders of North and South Korea commit to end the state of war in the peninsula. Peace has existed there since 1953, but the problem is the hostilities of the both sides. The cessation of hostilities will be a long process,” the analyst said.
In his opinion, the parties really take a small step but the prospect is not clear at this stage.
“There is still possible that the reconciliation process will be stopped or reversed by the unexpected events,” Xu Jin suggested.
From his point of view, the international community cannot do much to resolve this difficult issue.
“Let’s wait and see. But the concerning parties should create a good conditions to the process and don't do anything so as to stimulate the DPRK and South Korea or worsen the atmosphere,” the Chinese expert concluded.