South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un have vowed to unite in peace on top of Mt. Paektu, North Korea, the highest mountain on the peninsula.
It can’t get more symbolic than that. This year has seen several diplomatic milestones already in the rapprochement between North and South Korea. But the three-day summit this week has advanced the cause for peace on the peninsula even further.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in was greeted in the North’s capital by huge crowds of well-wishers. With North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, important commitments were signed towards scrapping nuclear weapons and normalizing ties between the two divided countries.
On the second day of his historic visit, President Moon addressed an estimated 150,000 people in the May Day stadium in Pyongyang during which he repeatedly referred to “my Korean brothers and sisters”. To rapturous applause, he called for peace and reunification of the “great Korean people”
The next day, Moon and Kim hiked up Mount Paektu accompanied by their wives and delegates. The mountain is revered by North and South Koreans as the spiritual birthplace of the nation, going back 5,000 years.
As Moon had noted in his stadium speech the previous night, Koreans have been living together in peace for millennia; it is only in the past 70 years they have been divided by Cold War and a brutal civil conflict (1950-53).
That division seems now to be coming to an end after this week’s fraternal summit. On the painful issue of reuniting families torn apart by the war, there are plans to regularize contacts across the border.
Both sides committed to demilitarize the border separating the countries and form a joint military committee to oversee deconfliction mechanisms. The two leaders set out plans to integrate the states through transport systems and economic cooperation.
What’s boosting the prospects of a comprehensive peace settlement is the positive reaction from the Trump administration. President Trump hailed the inter-Korea summit this week as “tremendous” and endorsed the push for peace.
This is not going to be a unilateral process in which the North gives up its nuclear arsenal without something major in return from Washington. Kim did not specify what US reciprocation would entail. But it is believed to involve security guarantees from the USA in the form of a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War.
North Korea would also want a permanent end to the annual US military maneuvers with its South Korean ally, which Pyongyang has always viewed as a provocation to its security. Additionally, the American forces – currently numbering some 28,000 troops – would be obliged to withdraw from South Korean territory.
It was Moon who then facilitated the breakthrough between Trump and Kim, which culminated in the Singapore summit in June, the first time a sitting US president ever met a North Korean leader.
The ball is in the US court. Trump needs to deliver substantive changes in US policy towards Korea. A declaration to end the Korean War would be a long-overdue start towards assuring North Korea’s security, and establishing peace on the peninsula.
That decades-old US military presence is less about “protecting” South Korea, and much more about projecting American power in the Asia-Pacific against China and Russia.
The danger is the process could come unstuck from two factions in Washington. The first is the militarists and imperial planners who will be averse to American withdrawal from the Korean Peninsula.
The second faction that could derail peace prospects is the “anti-Trump” political establishment dominated by Democrats and their media supporters. This faction loathes everything about Trump, no matter if he happens to be doing something good, as in diplomacy with North Korea.
Still, the anti-Trump brigade don’t seem pleased about that. The New York Times grudgingly headlined on the summit this week:
“North Korea’s New Nuclear Promises Fall Short of US Demands”. Another naysayer was the Washington Post which snorted “North Korea is now under minimum pressure” to denuclearize.
US spoiling tactics aside, the people of Korea, North and South, seem to now have the determination and courage more than ever to forge their own destiny.
The Korea’s will try to bring an end to war, no matter what Washington does. The days of American bullying power are waning.
RT.com / ABC Flash Point News 2018.