The Two Koreas
The Two Koreas
In 1950 Kin Jong-un’s grandfather, Kim 11 Sung of North Korea invaded South Korea, which eventually drew both China and USA into the fight: China in support of North Korea and the United States on the side of South Korea. In 1953 the war was brought to an end and an armistice was drawn where General K.S.Thimayya of the Indian army, as head of the UN Peace Keeping Mission brokered the armistice whereby the US kept some troops stationed in South Korea. Since then the armistice has held out except for odd skirmishes.
In the past a few unsuccessful attempts were made to draw up a peace treaty. During this period North Korea developed, nuclear weapon and carried out six texts. It also developed, long range missile capable of hitting American main land, and in fact held out threat of hurling missiles across the Pacific. In response to this the U.S. President threatened North Korea with, ‘ fire and fury, ’and more importantly intensified sanctions.
However North Korea taking part in Winter Olympics in South Korea did lessen tensions between the two Koreas. More recently Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in the demilitarized zone in the border village of Pamunjom.
Subsequently they met again. These meetings were marked by some candid moments with sweeping pledges with President Kim declaring that he was there to end history of confrontation. He even went to the extent of declaring that he would shut down the site of nuclear tests by May and denuclearize his country, if the price for doing so is right, such as security guarantee from the U.S and withdrawal of its troops from the Korean Peninsula. Though no time line was mentioned.
This needs to be seen in the light of the reports that during the last nuclear weapons test, the tunnel had collapsed and it meant carrying out future tests in the open. .In the meanwhile North Korea has demolished the nuclear test site altogether
That sets the stage for U.S. President Donald Trump and South Korean President Kim Jong-un meeting during end of May or early June 2018, where Trump was expected to persuade North Korean regime to relinquish its nuclear arsenal and missile programme. However after that there was much flip-flop on the prospect of a meeting coming through. Though now finally the meeting is to take place in Singapore on 12 June.
This nuclear issue is rather complicated, even if some broad agreement is reached, restrictions such as establishing a verification system that is both acceptable to Pyongyang and assures U.S that the North is living up to its commitment is one of the more difficult feature of such an agreement. This is the main worrying aspect of American dilemma.
Mr Pompeo, Secretary of State, who had recently met Kim as a representative of U.S. President to set the agenda for Kim and Trump meeting noted that he had impressed on Kim to be prepared to talk about things that matter most. He was able to obtain release of three American detainees holed up in North Korea.
It is not only adopting an irreversible denuclearization but equally dismantling of long range missiles programme that will need to be brought into the agreement. However this elimination of only long range missiles leaves both South Korea and Japan with the prospect of living with the threat of short range missiles.
On the face of it, China seems to play a positive role in bringing Kim Jong-un to negotiate with South Korea and USA, but this needs to be seen in the light of subsequent visits to China by Kim Jong-un and what kind of role China will finally play, one will have to wait and see. While America had imposed some level of trade sanctions, but for the present further push in this direction has been halted.
More recently North Korean envoy, Kim Yong-chol, who is one of Kim Yong-un’s closest adviser, met President Trump in the Oval Office. He has been on America’s sanctions list and had to be given special permission to travel to Washington. It may be recalled that Kim Yong-chol was said to be behind the sinking of South Korean ship, where large number of troops died. Amongst other hostile acts Kim Yong –chol was linked to North Korea’s spy agency, which carried out number of cyber attacks.
While these developments in this region are welcome, hopes and apprehensions seem to run on parallel lines. Possibly much may not come out of this meeting on 12 June, but al the same it is a positive step and in the right direction. Though, both Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump are unpredictable, yet some hope persists.
(Lt General Harwant Singh is a retired veteran of the armed forces)