- Of negotiated peace
The world woke up to what seemed like a new, and more peaceful world on 27th April 2018 – the two Koreas had reached an agreement to negotiate peace and put an end to the Korean War. The armistice for the Korean War had been reached during 1953, after the war had prolonged for three years, however, a cold peace had persisted between both Koreas since then.
How peace has been negotiated?
Since gaining presidency last year, US President Donald Trump raised the stakes for any diplomatic exchanges between the democratic world and North Korea. Through a series of heated statements which ensued, the North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ensured that the world understood North Korea’s ability of launching its nuclear weapons “anywhere in the US”, while the US was adamant in calling on the world to internationally isolate this rogue state.
Countries like China, which had previously held close economic relations with North Korea, also favoured the imposition of these sanctions which further severed North Korea’s relations in the international arena. President Trump’s statement that North Korea would meet with ‘fire and fury’ should it choose not to abandon its nuclear weapons program further fuelled North Korea which then raised its stakes by calling on the US “…to learn to coexist with our country that has nuclear weapons and should wake up from its pipe dream of our country giving up nuclear weapons which we have developed and completed through all kinds of hardships.” With the US approaching the United Nations and passing a round of sanctions against the country, North Korea was adamant to showcase that it could take on such adverse actions as it had the appetite and capability of doing so.
This continuous hostility and matched violent threats raised the stakes for any kind of diplomatic relations between the international community and North Korea. The US committed to ground, naval and aerial forces along with South Korea in a war theatre to exhibit the armed might of the two countries. In a nuclear stand-off, North Korea twice launched ballistic missiles over Japan that landed in the Sea of Japan, with no damage. Thereafter China and Japan, as per the directions of the US, resorted to increasing the economic sanctions.
This continuous hostility and matched violent threats raised the stakes for any kind of diplomatic relations between the international community and North Korea
Now with a nuclear stand-off like this, one would expect that the sanctioned would subsequently cede to international norms, because of attaining a greater leverage for bargain, and/or the rogue state would start crumbling from within. With the historic Kim-Moon handshake it has become apparent that for North Korea, both of the pre-requisites for bringing a rogue state to a negotiating table were actualised.
What to expect?
However, it is important to note that before this happened, and the US and the international community has proceeded to embrace this ‘negotiated peace’, a formal agreement has yet to be signed, detailing on how peace would actually be reached and maintained. So far, we’ve heard that North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear weapons, however, details on the procedure for this remain to be discussed and detailed. This also points our attention towards the fact that we still can’t be sure if North Korea would actually stand by its denuclearisation stance, to what extent, and whether or not it will be another one of North Korea’s approach at provocation and rapprochement.
Further talks between Kim and Trump will be the decisive factor for this, and until these are held (expected to be later in May or early June), we can’t be sure what course of direction would be taken, i) to formalise negotiated peace into a peace treaty, ii) de-nuclearising North Korea, iii) de-militarising Korean peninsula, iv) limiting or eliminating economic sanctions on North Korea, and v) North Korea’s standing in the international community.
The historic summit has detailed nothing on either of these, and it remains to be seen how the international community would fare up in the wake of this. With these important questions unanswered, two conclusions can be drawn, i) the historic Kim-Moon handshake was a mere ceremonious act, signifying the ease of tensions, and ii) Kim and Trump’s meeting during next month would be the decisive factor in determining North Korea’s role in the international community, and the development of new narratives surrounding ‘a rouge state ceding to international norms in a post-globalised word’.
Where is China?
In all of this, we have heard nothing from China. When reviewing North Korea’s international standing, we have to understand and recall that almost a month ago, Kim Jong Un went to Beijing, ahead of Boao Economic Forum and announced that the state was eager to denuclearise itself. In another statement, Kim said, if US and South Korea “…respond with good will and create an atmosphere of peace and stability the issue of denuclearisation can be resolved.” This highlights a certain validation and assistance needed by Kim for setting North Korea on a path of internationalisation. This when taken together with how Kim embraced Moon, points towards the idea that for Kim that validation has been achieved.
However, we still have to hear from China as Beijing is the platform that Kim used to approach the world. China is building an economic empire in Asia by way of its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative, and how far this route can extend to, was highlighted by President Xi Jinping’s resorting to historic ties with North Korea. However, we all know that Trump is wearing the crown for the historic Kim-Moon Summit, we have yet to see how China responds to it.
Perhaps, an economic giant like China will let the US take this one, while resuming its trade with North Korea, and subsequently penetrating into the state as well. For the survival of the Trump administration this historic handshake is enough validation for now, however, the true win for US lies in the upcoming summit between Trump and Kim. This would be decisive in determining how the power vacuum would be filled by regional powers and how this balance of power would ultimately shift.