Keep faith in NK is­sue de­spite slow progress

Global Times - - FRONT PAGE -

North Korean For­eign Min­is­ter Ri Yong-ho is vis­it­ing China from Thurs­day to Satur­day to meet se­nior Chi­nese of­fi­cials and hold dis­cus­sions on the sit­u­a­tion on the Korean Penin­sula. The trip will help fur­ther strengthen the con­sen­sus achieved by top lead­ers of both coun­tries, pro­mote China-North Ko­rea re­la­tions and en­hance com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­op­er­a­tion on the fraught Penin­sula is­sue, ac­cord­ing to Chi­nese For­eign Min­istry Spokesper­son Geng Shuang.

This year has seen a low­er­ing of ten­sions on the Penin­sula and North Ko­rea’s frozen ties with South Ko­rea and the US have looked up. The na­ture of the re­cent im­prove­ment in the sit­u­a­tion on the Penin­sula has been dif­fer­ent from the past in sev­eral as­pects. For in­stance, Py­ongyang has made an un­prece­dent­edly ex­plicit com­mit­ment to com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion, though what comes of it is yet to be seen.

This man­i­fes­ta­tion of will power rarely seen be­fore was made dur­ing the in­ter-Korean sum­mits and es­pe­cially the one be­tween US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, sug­gest­ing the two coun­tries in­tend to forge a new type of re­la­tion­ship. South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jaein has led spe­cific ef­forts for im­prov­ing mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity ties with his north­ern neigh­bor.

But there is a down­side that should not go un­no­ticed: Py­ongyang’s ef­forts at de­nu­cle­ariza­tion haven’t re­ceived sub­stan­tial ac­co­lades from the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. In par­tic­u­lar, Wash­ing­ton’s re­sponse has been luke­warm with only some tac­ti­cal moves to­ward Py­ongyang, bereft of sub­stan­tive pol­icy or strate­gic tweaks. That has led to the cur­rent predica­ment on the Penin­sula is­sue.

The knot lies in that the US and North Ko­rea have dif­fer­ent de­mands on mind. Py­ongyang hopes that a peace treaty can be signed to of­fi­cially end the Korean War, to which Wash­ing­ton dis­agrees. And North Ko­rea now turns to an al­ter­na­tive, hop­ing that in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on the coun­try can be eased, if not lifted. But the US still in­sists that North Ko­rea give a full dec­la­ra­tion of its nu­clear pro­gram up front and even wants Py­ongyang to per­ma­nently do away with its nu­clear fa­cil­i­ties.

De­spite all the hic­cups, we still need to have faith in the sit­u­a­tion on the penin­sula. The de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of North Ko­rea has come to an un­prece­dented stage with enor­mous dif­fi­cul­ties im­ped­ing fur­ther progress. But there is no turn­ing back for North Ko­rea nor does it want to. South Ko­rea will also face prob­lems if the past comes back to haunt the Penin­sula. But still it’s not easy for the US to agree to Py­ongyang’s de­mands.

For­tu­nately, it is the sum­mits be­tween the US, South Ko­rea and North Ko­rea that have con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to the progress achieved. Amid the dead­lock, it was re­ported that Kim and Moon will likely meet again within this year while the sec­ond US-North Ko­rea sum­mit may be held in Jan­uary or Fe­bru­ary next year. Since ne­go­ti­a­tions on spe­cific is­sues have met bar­ri­ers, the up­com­ing sum­mits will prob­a­bly play a role in break­ing the log­jam.

Given the cur­rent dif­fi­cul­ties, it is im­por­tant that the par­ties have the will to com­pletely ad­dress the is­sue. The US may have to think about chang­ing the way in which it looks at the prob­lem and deals with North Ko­rea. Oth­er­wise, an ex­pe­di­ent move for short-term ben­e­fits won’t be of much help for the penin­sula. In fact, North Kore­ans now hold that as long as pow­ers take ac­tions, the coun­try will act ac­cord­ingly. In other words, if the US can take some steps for­ward, North Ko­rea is likely to make more ef­forts than ex­pected.

The ar­ti­cle was com­piled from a speech by Yu Shao­hua, for­mer di­rec­tor of the Asia-Pa­cific In­sti­tute at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies, at a sem­i­nar on peace-build­ing in North­east Asia or­ga­nized by The Cha­har In­sti­tute on De­cem­ber 4. opin­[email protected]­al­

Il­lus­tra­tion: Liu Rui/GT

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