68 Years of Tension on the Korean Peninsula

The conflict that has simmered between North and South Korea for more than half a century has finally come to an amicable end as Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in met in the Demilitarized Zone between the two countries to announce a return to peaceful relations.

The two leaders also announced their commitment to the denuclearization of the peninsula as well as their intention to negotiate an official peace treaty to replace the armistice of 1953.

“I came here to put an end to the history of confrontation.”  – Kim Jong-un

In the current political atmosphere where policy changes and disruptions in international relations have been happening at a dizzying pace, I think this is a political surprise we can all celebrate.

This was the first inter-Korean dialogue that has occurred in over a decade, and it has produced results that are so positive leaders around the world have been left completely stunned.

Naturally, the president of the U.S. immediately attempted to insert the country and its people into the historic accomplishment even as the meeting was ongoing.

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Although South Korean President Moon Jae-in did acknowledge the U.S. president’s role in bringing the two Korean leaders together, there is scant evidence to suggest that the president or the American people had anything to do with today’s historic agreement.

In a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel today, the president reiterated his tough stance against North Korea.

“Maximum pressure will continue until denuclearization occurs. I look forward to our meeting. It should be quite something.”

The president also implied that there should be no celebration until he has had his turn to meet with the North Korean leader.

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It is true that while today’s meeting resulted in hopeful promises of denuclearization, it did not outline the specific ways in which that would be accomplished or what form it would take.

For example, there was no disclosure of North Korea’s precise nuclear capabilities, nor was there any discussion of what North Korea could expect to receive in return for the surrender of their nuclear capabilities.

Despite the relative lack of clarity concerning the issues of denuclearization, the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification on the Korean Peninsula does outline many admirable and beneficial goals that are absolutely worth celebrating:

  • Family reunification beginning August 15
  • The establishment of a peace regime
  • Implementation of infrastructure projects that will connect North and South Korean roads and railroads
  • The transformation of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into a peace zone
  • The commitment to additional military discussions in May
  • The immediate ceasing of all hostile activities on land, air, and sea
  • A meeting will take place in North Korea between Kim Jong-un and Moon Jae-in in the fall

From a humanitarian perspective, the Panmunjom Declaration is a triumphant victory, as North Koreans have been living in a consistent state of civil and human rights violations for decades, and families that have been forcibly separated for over half a century will finally be able to reunite.

Yes, we do need to make sure that the commitment to denuclearization is realized and followed through on, but there is so much achieved by this declaration that it would be petty to even attempt to diminish its significance by focusing only on what it lacks, especially when both Korean leaders have displayed such strong commitment to the Declaration.

“Kim Jong-un and I declared together that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun.” – Moon Jae-in

“We will make efforts to create good results by communicating closely in order to make sure our agreement signed today before the entire world will not end as just a beginning like previous agreements before today.” – Kim Jong-un

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