MS Risk Blog

Will peace arrive to the Korean peninsula?

Posted on in Uncategorized title_rule

After last year’s nuclear tests and the sabre rattling in recent months between North Korea and the US, it came as a surprise when Chung Eui-yong, the National Security advisor of South Korean president Moon Jae-in confirmed that Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un will meet in May. In previous months, several ships were reported violating the UN sanctions imposed on North Korea by moving products between ships to supply the closed Asian country. Japan was eager to press North Korea with new and even harder sanctions. Later, in February came the announcement, that North Korea will participate in the Winter Olympics, moreover the two Koreas marched together, and they had a joint female hockey team. During the Olympics, a North Korean orchestra performed several times in the South and a special delegation, including the sister of Kim Jong-un, also visited the Winter Games.

In early March a South Korean envoy visited its northern neighbour and met with prominent figures of the North, which was followed by a meeting of the southern delegation in Washington, where it was announced that the US President and North Korean leader are willing to meet each other.

If the summit happens, Kim Jong-un will overgrow his father, as it has never happened in North Korean history that a US President in office met with the Hermit Kingdom’s leader. Kim Jong-un said, North Korea will refrain from any further nuclear or missile tests and he is committed to denuclearisation with certain preconditions. Pyongyang wants guarantees for the regime’s survival and wants military threats against it removed. These conditions have to be clarified during the summit.

Most probably President Trump realised, there is no military solution to the Korean issue. Even if the US and its allies managed to neutralise the North Korean nuclear weapons, because of the proximity of Seoul, conventional weapons can easily kill millions of people in the South.

None of the participants offered a place for the summit yet. As Trump accepted Kim’s invitation, it is highly unlikely for Kim Jong-un to travel to Washington. Given President Trump’s personal characteristics, it is not likely he would volunteer to visit Pyongyang. The location of the summit will send a message. The best possible alternative would be South Korea. Seoul played a crucial role bringing the two leaders to a table, holding the summit in the South would mean that North Korea and the US acknowledge Seoul’s role.

Regional powers welcomed the announcement as well. Although Japan was one of the loudest on imposing stronger and stronger sanctions on North Korea, they offered $3 million to cover the costs of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s inspections of the nuclear facilities if Pyongyang agrees to them. Tokyo is also considering to offer even more if new facilities are revealed. China had a crucial role making Pyongyang recalculate the cost and benefit equation. Right after the introductions of the UN sanctions, the trade between China and North Korea dropped drastically. Not to push North Korea to the edge, Beijing voted against further sanctions and a special envoy was sent to Pyongyang to register China’s disapproval of Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocations. The delegation also tried to persuade them to join the negotiating table.

In the best-case scenario, the outcome of the summit could be a declaration of the end of the Korean War. The Korean peninsula is at a ceasefire with hostilities on pause. Denuclearisation is also on the table. Such a move could result in the lifting of sanctions and could initiate the slow process of North Korea joining the global economy.