Will the thaw on peninsula bring results?

By Zhao Lixin Source:Global Times Published: 2018/3/13 21:43:40

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT


High-level talks between North and South Korea have seen progress. South Korean president's national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, who led a special delegation to Pyongyang, announced after returning to Seoul on March 6 that Pyongyang was willing to hold talks with the US on denuclearization. According to Chung, the North side said that Pyongyang had no reason to retain nuclear weapons should the military threat against it be removed and its national security guaranteed. Chung also noted that Pyongyang showed understanding for the resumption of US-South Korea military exercises in April.

Chung revealed that Seoul and Pyongyang also agreed to set up a hot line between the leaders, the North would not conduct nuclear or missile tests during talks and the two Koreas have agreed to hold a leaders' summit in Panmunjom late April.

However, North Korea has still not confirmed the South's version of events. Its official daily Rodong Sinmun published an article on March 7 noting Pyongyang will advance the parallel development of the economy and nuclear weapons. It seems that Pyongyang is awaiting Washington's response. This is a diplomatic tactic adopted by North Korea, which would leave it some leeway.

Although details of the letter South Korean President Moon Jae-in delivered to North Korea's top leader Kim Jong-un by the delegation remain unclear, it probably contained the conditions for dialogue with the US. The Moon government strives for a peaceful solution to the nuclear issue and peace on the Korean Peninsula by promoting talks between Pyongyang and Washington. The diplomatic breakthrough Seoul achieved has inspired the world and gained the support of China, Russia and the EU. Moon has navigated around the Korean Peninsula issue amid doubts and controversies.

Chung spoke after his meeting with US President Donald Trump on March 8 at the White House, announcing that the US president is ready to meet Kim by May at the North Korean leader's invitation "to achieve permanent denuclearization." Kim may propose sending his sister Kim Yo-jong to the US, as part of efforts to launch direct talks between Washington and Pyongyang, according to a South Korean diplomatic source.

The upcoming Trump-Kim summit is expected to create a historic milestone for peace on the peninsula. South Korean envoys will then visit China, Russia and Japan to seek their support. Seoul's endeavor to facilitate US-North Korean dialogue and play a positive role on the global arena deserves praise.

Undoubtedly, signs of a thaw on the peninsula take from joint efforts of all relevant parties. In his phone call with Trump on March 9, Chinese President Xi Jinping appreciated the US president's desire to resolve the peninsula issue politically. Trump said he highly appreciates and values China's significant role in resolving the issue.

The extent to which the US and North Korea are willing to move toward dialogue is important. Trump has reiterated that US sanctions against North Korea will remain till an agreement on denuclearization is reached.

The global community has taken a wait-and-see approach toward the Trump-Kim meet, given past diplomatic failures on the nuclear issue. Some analysts believed that no substantial results would be achieved by the talks. Pyongyang's demand for regime guarantee is unprecedented for the US and will likely touch the bottom line of American hard-liners.

Therefore, people doubt whether these moves will contribute to a turning point on the peninsula. When will North Korea publicly express its willingness to abandon its nuclear program and take concrete steps? Will the inter-Korean summit talks in late April pave the way for the Kim-Trump meeting by May? Perhaps US-South Korea joint military exercises could be scaled down to create a good atmosphere for talks between Washington and Pyongyang.

The author is director of the Department of International Political Science, College of Political Science and Public Management, Yanbian University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn


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