Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Opportunity For Peace in Korea

UPDATE:
North Korea has expressed their willingness to negotiate ending their nuclear program with a South Korean diplomatic envoy. This could be due in part to massive sanctions by the United Nations placed on their country that crippled their economy.  This potentially represents a monumental development on the chance for peace in the Korean Peninsula. This could be a great achievement for the Trump administration if they do manage to negotiate a deal for denuclearization. A meeting is scheduled to take place between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, which Trump says will happen before May. If this meeting takes place,  it will be the first time a sitting president has met with a North Korean leader.

The risk that President Trump’s administration faces is that North Korea is not willing to eliminate or freeze their nuclear program. Former president Bill Clinton was faced with a similar situation in 1994 after a deal he struck for ending their nuclear program with then North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung fell through. This was because the North was secretly continuing their program to enrich uranium for nuclear weapons.

So far details about the proposed meeting are very sparse, other than that it is happening soon.

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North and South Korea walked out together waving one unified Korean flag at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. After the back and forth of nuclear threats between Kim Jong-un and President Donald Trump, this is a welcome sign that a lasting agreement for peace could be reached because of our close-knit relationship with South Korea.

Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, is notoriously unpredictable when it comes to international relations, but his country’s participation at Pyeongchang could mean he is ready to make a deal for denuclearization just months after strict tariffs passed by the United Nations went into effect. The North sent 229 cheerleaders, a band, and Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong as part of the North Korean delegation. Vice President Mike Pence was also in attendance at the games, and chose to ignore the senior members of the North Korean delegation. This has raised questions to whether this will benefit diplomacy or help to sow tensions between our two countries.

North Korea does not always attend the Winter Olympics. They chose to skip the 2014 games in Sochi and the 2002 games in Salt Lake City, so their appearance in itself should not be taken lightly.  The decision to march out with South Korea wearing matching uniforms and one flag has major implications for world diplomacy.

What this means in both the short and long term for the United States is uncertain. Perhaps Mike Pence missed an opportunity for diplomacy at the games. It is unlikely that the North’s participation will lead to North Korea abandoning its nuclear program, but it is a step in the right direction. A war between our countries would be devastating, even if nuclear weapons weren’t used. Hopefully, leaders from South Korea, North Korea, and the United States can come together and engage in dialogue so that this outcome can be avoided.

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