The Indian Wire » Editorial » North Korea-South Korea-US: A tango of nations on nuclear symphony

North Korea-South Korea-US: A tango of nations on nuclear symphony


The last few months have been tumultuous for North Korea with unprecedented changes happening in the regime overturning history and starting anew. The developments in North Korea have been a result of its supreme leadership Kim Jong-un’s historic decision earlier this year to denuclearise the nation. This announcement produced a domino effect involving 3 nations, 3 leaders over a period of 3 months culminating in the blowing up of the only known nuclear site in North Korea.

Where did it all begin?

Though the prologue to the mammoth decision was written earlier, what actually got the cogwheels moving was the landmark meeting between the leaders of North and South Korea. The summit meeting was held in the DMZ (Demilitarized Zone) on the South Korean side of Panmunjom village on April 27, a first in over a decade. The two leaders, Kim Jong-un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met to discuss inter-Korean relations and reach a common ground. The biggest and the most startling statement that came out of the meeting was Kim’s desire to conduct a summit meeting between the US and North Korea to discuss potential denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula with a tentative date of the meeting fixed at June 12.

How did the US enter the Korean duel?

The involvement of the US in the affairs of the Korean nations is due to the sanctions put by the US and the UN on North Korea against the proliferation of nuclear arsenal. North Korea is an economically poor country which relies on help from its allies, mainly China. So, North Korea in an attempt to establish supremacy in the region started creating WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction). This led to the UN put sanctions on North Korea which also meant reduced trade with China. One of the possible reasons why North Korea is stepping forward for complete denuclearization thus could be the possibility of renewed trade with China.

The wider picture

Another reason is due to the history that the two nations share. The war between the North and South Korea, though technically ended in 1950-53, it ended with a truce rather than a peace treaty. So the US, which backed South Korea during the war, has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of war. The US, in the present, has also recommended joint military exercises with South Korea, which North Korea sees as a potential threat and a rehearsal for invasion. This had been the reason behind Kim pulling back from a proposed meeting between the two Korean nations. Kim seeks to obtain an efficient barter with the US giving up his nuclear assets in return of suspension of such military activities.

War of words: the hiccups in the proposition

The planned meeting, which was being seen as a historic first was soon apparently jettisoned into black waters when Trump decided to call off his participation from the meeting. He cited the “tremendous anger and open hostility” in the statements from North Korea as the reason of his backing off. This came before North Korea threatened to cancel the meeting on the grounds of “unlawful and outrageous acts” by top American officials calling the Vice President “ignorant and stupid”. North Korean Vice Foreign Minister made these remarks in response to the comparisons drawn between Libya and North Korea by Trump’s new national security adviser John R. Bolton and Vice President Mike Pence. Both Bolton and Pence have referred to the ‘Libya model’ in context of North Korea saying that their leader will meet the same fate as Qaddafi. Libya was tricked into abandoning its nuclear programme in return of a promise from the US to not repeat what it did in Iraq, in Libya. But Colonel Qaddafi met the same fate as his Iraqi counterpart, creating an example that the US could not be trusted. With repeated reference to the Libya model by the American officials, North Korea fears its future and thus threatened to abandon the meeting.

South Korean standpoint

South Korea, under the leadership of its placid and peace-loving President Moon Jae-in has played the role of the fuel that thrust the resolution of disputes between both US-North Korea and North Korea and itself. The first meeting held on April 27 was followed by another meeting held secretively only recently on May 26 wherein Kim expressed his desire to continue the proposed meeting on June 12, thus making him appear as the harbinger of peace and as one who is keen on offering the olive branch.

After the frenzy of events that have taken place between the three nations, talks are again underway of pursuing the June 12 meeting bilaterally, with Trump to signaling at moving some of its officials to Singapore – where the meeting is to take place – to see to the preparations for the summit. It is difficult to predict what might become of the meeting in the coming days, thanks to the out-of-the-blue statements being issued from the concerned parties on a daily basis. The commotion surrounding the big day is far from getting over any sooner as the leaders start pulling strings again to make it work.

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