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Fast progress of Korean nuclear issue

The Korean nuclear issue has achieved inexplicable fast progress after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, and a summit between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) was held in April.

The DPRK announced on May 12 that a ceremony for the dismantling of its nuclear test site on May 23-25, a step towards the denuclearization of the peninsula.

On May 10, US President Donald Trump said that "The highly anticipated meeting between Kim Jong Un and myself will take place in Singapore on June 12th."

What have happened in the past months, since just seven months ago, the high tension still lingered on the peninsula? Do the fast progress, leaders’ meetings would solve the nuclear issue on the peninsula?

In the 17th issue of 2018, China Newsweek magazine ran a cover story on the development of Korean nuclear issue and the future progress.

Below is an excerpt of the article.

On April 27, the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong-un crossed the military demarcation line to meet with ROK President Moon Jae-in in Panmunjom, the first time for a DPRK leader to step on ROK soil since the Korean War ended with an armistice.

The meeting gave some surprising plots, such as Kim inviting Moon to step cross the line into the DPRK and take photos after their handshaking and taking photos in the ROK side, and the meeting almost being lived to the outside.

The two leaders later adopted a joint declaration, confirming the common goal of realizing denuclearization and pushing forward the change the current armistice agreement to a peace treaty, bringing a formal end to hostilities.

Im Jong-seok, Moon’s presidential chief of staff who led the ROK's preparation for the Moon-Kim summit, said that the declaration was a starting point for safeguarding peace on the peninsula in practice and system.

Both leaders have reached the written agreement on stopping all hostilities, providing a strong guarantee to put it into practice in the future, Im said, and the most important work next step was to try to put the consensus to the ground.

The meeting was the third after the first in 2000 and second in 2007. Behind the third meeting there were lots of work between the two sides and other involved parties.

Suspicions were also around the future of the denuclearization on the peninsula. On US social networks, some compared the latest declaration to past two declarations in meetings and they said the content were in all three.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was not so pessimistic after the declaration was made. He said he believed Kim was serious about a meeting with Trump.

From Pyeongchang to Panmunjom

Moon Jae-in said he expected to bring DPRK to the negotiating table when he took office in May 2017, but the increasing sanctions and tensions due to the DPRK’s launch of missiles have created huge barriers for his attempt.

To ease the tension on the peninsula, ROK has expressed its willingness to invite the DPRK to take part in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, and the DPRK did not make response until the beginning of 2018, Kim expressed a will.

The ROK side soon made response and negotiated with the DPRK side. Later on February 9, athletes from both sides entered the venue together holding the Korean unification flag.

The DPRK sent a high-level delegation led by the DPRK's president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Jong-un's younger sister Kim Yo-jong was also in the delegation.

A letter from the DPRK top leader was given to Moon on February 10 in a banquet Moon held for the DPRK delegation, leading later communications of both sides and finally the meeting of the two leaders in Panmunjom.

On March 5, Chung Eui-yong, chief of the ROK presidential National Security Office, visited Pyongyang on March 5 and met with Kim Jong-un for the Panmunjom meeting.

On March 6, Chung returned to ROK to report to Moon about the meeting, and on March 8, he flew to Washington to meet with US President Trump who also decided to meet with DPRK leader.

On March 12, Chung visited Beijing to meet President Xi Jinping and on March 13, he flew from Beijing to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin.

At the invitation of Xi, Kim Jong-un paid an unofficial visit to China from March 25 to 28. During the visit, they deeply exchanged views on the peninsula situations.

Xi said that China appreciated the important efforts made by the DPRK to bring positive changes since this year, and he said China would continue to play a constructive role and work together with all parties to ease of the situations.

The DPRK leader’s March visit to China has demonstrate and proved China’s role in solving the Korean Peninsula issue, said Lee Jong-seok, former South Korean Minister of Unification and chairman of the National Security Council.

Lee said that only the resumption of relations with China, the DPRK believed, will benefit itself, and then would talk with other parties. China played an active role in realizing the meetings between the DPRK and ROK, and the DPRK and the US.

The Moon--Kim meeting on April 27 has attracted more than 1.6 million discussions and comments on Twitter that day. The heat of the meeting peaked when the declaration was published around 6:30 pm.

The signing of the Panmunjom declaration has received positive comments from all sides. The US President Trump sent two tweets on the good thing happening on the Korean Peninsula.

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement that he appreciated the significant meeting between the leaders of DPRK and ROK, and respected their courage and leadership for the promises and acts.

First step

Moon has stressed in a speech in Germany in 2017 that all he pursued was to achieve peace, and after the signing of the Panmunjom declaration, he claimed that there would be no more war on the peninsula.

The DRPK and ROK leaders have realized the importance of ending the state of war, and today, Moon and Kim has showed the policy flexibility in ending the state of war.

The Moon government would not follow the previous Roh Moo-Hyun government to first hold four-party talks and then made the declaration of ending the state of war, said Handong Global University professor Kim Joon-hyung on April 26.

The professor said that like the First World War, the ending of the Korean war could be announced together with a peace treaty, and also could be commenced on separately.

Kim Joon-hyung said the peace treaty should be involved with other related countries, but the ending of the war state did not need. It was important for the two leaders to made the announcement of ending the war state.

The Panmunjom declaration has shown the two steps, first announcing the ending of the war state, and then pushing ahead talks involving China and the United States to change the current armistice agreement into a peace treaty.

Paik Hak-soon of the Republic of Korea's Sejong Institute think tank said that Moon inherited Roh’s spirit in the policies towards the DPRK, and Moon has met with Kim Jong-un who has shown the positive side.

Lee Jong-seok said that Kim Jong-un has the attempt to push the DPRK’s economy to rise at a high speed, changing the north side into an economic power, and only in this way, it is worth abandoning nuclear weapons.

Suspicions and hope

Moon’s announcement of no more war on the peninsula was same to the announcement from Kim Dae-Jung, after the first summit of the former ROK president and the DRPK leader.

Soon after the 2000 announcement, the peninsula fell into a vicious circle of “provocation, dialogue, agreement, aid, tearing up the agreement, provocation again and restart of dialogue.”

Comparing to many people’s optimistic mood, and some viewed that it is too early to talk about the denuclearization, the peace and unification of the Koreas and Korean people.

Professor Koh Yu-hwan of Dongguk University in Seoul said the DPRK and the ROK talked about the direction, mainly exchanging views, and the talks between the DPRK and the US would be in acts.

Koh said that it was still unknown if the promise of Kim Jong-un on dropping nuclear weapons would be fulfilled. “It is not only the DPRK’s unilateral act, and many parties are involved in. It needs the DPRK to talk with the US, such as the sequence and speed. If there was no consensus, there will be contradictions.”

The DPRK and the ROK did not hold the key in the denuclearization and peace treaty. The relationship of the DRPK and the US was the pivotal factor to guide the peace process on the peninsula.

Some US experts said that Kim Jong-un was setting a plot to gain time. In 2005, the DPRK said it wanted to drop nuclear plan for regional peace and economic support, but the next year, it held the first nuclear test.

Michael J Green, National Security Adviser to George W Bush, said that evidence has shown that the DPRK tried to impair the sanctions, and wanted to use the low stance in exchange for the legitimacy of nuclear weapons.

But Stanford University professor Siegfried S. Hecker, who visited the DPRK seven times, said that it was the US holing an oscillating attitude between talks and deterrence, which caused the negotiation way unsuccessful.

The DPRK has expressed to dismantle the nuclear test ground by the end of May, and Kim Jong-un refuted the suspicions on the dismantle that the DPRK will not only close the unused facilities but also two other facilities in current use.

He said if the US and the DPRK could build a relationship of mutual trust, being able to be peaceful and non aggression, the DPRK would not live a hard life for keeping nuclear weapons.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the withdrawal of the US troops stationed in South Korea would be in negotiations in the future, and the US sought for trust mechanism with the DPRK.

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