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May 7, 2018 | by  | in News Opinion | [ssba]

Trump Eyes Korean Peace

Let’s admit it, the Korean saga is the herpes of world tension — it just won’t go away, and is unlikely to now, even with Mr Trump’s scintillating deal making skills. Despite the favourable noises emanating from Pyongyang right now, I for one would like to call bullshit on the idea that North Korea will in any way, shape, or form give up its nuclear weapons. It is a dangerous delusion to imagine that a regime such as Kim Jong-un’s would give up its only claim to fame and arguably the only thing guaranteeing its continued existence.
On 27 April, in an historic meeting in Panmunjom, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un crossed into the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and hobnobbed with Moon Jae-in of South Korea.
In the words of Trump as he delivered a speech in Michigan on Saturday, “very good things are happening in North Korea folks”. A sentiment I’m in two minds about, frankly.
While it is good that the Koreas are talking and entertaining the idea of a peace accord — something that has eluded them since the 1950s — it would require some Olympic level mental gymnastics to assume that anything concrete will come of this.
By this I’m referring to North Korea giving up its nuclear program — an idea that has been bandied around in the press recently — which would be a truly insane thing for Kim to do. That isn’t to say one doesn’t hope he would wind up his weapons programme, but it is nonetheless a touching idea to think he will, especially for the flimsy promises offered to him.
National Security Adviser and super-hawk John “I’ve never seen a country I didn’t want to bomb” Bolton has even toyed with the idea of a “Libya style” denuclearisation arrangement for the North. Libya’s former leader Gaddafi agreed to dismantle his nuclear weapons program in 2003 in return for sanctions relief… needless to say, this did not end well for him, and this is something that is unlikely to have escaped the notice of Pyongyang.
Possibly one of the most amusing ironies of this is that one of the “key” promises Kim has made is to close his nuclear testing site at Punggye-ri. The fact that it’s reported to have collapsed after his last test in September 2017 makes this gesture merely symbolic, not to mention he could simply reopen it if and when he chooses.
The promise to “denuclearize” the Korean Peninsula — something Kim and Moon committed to in a joint statement — should also be treated with scepticism. From the North’s point of view, denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula means the United States removing its nuclear forces from Korea and Japan as well – something that is a tad unlikely, due to just how so supremely mendacious North Korea has proven to be in the past.
The North’s promise for an end to nuclear and intercontinental ballistic missile tests is, in principle, an
excellent development, and one which should go some way to cooling tensions in the area. However, this can also be read in a somewhat darker way, in that Kim has successfully demonstrated that he has the bomb and a missile that can reach the US. He thus feels no need to continue the provocations when instead, with a little word play and finger crossing, he can extract concessions from the US et al. in the forms of sanctions relief, aid money, and so on.
Naturally, Trump humbly accepted all the credit for these developments in his rather comical Saturday monologue – “What do you think President Trump had to do with this? How about everything”. I kid you not, I have pulled the muscle that controls eye rolling.
All in all, while it is good that the two parties are talking, I remain dubious that this will end in anything but a majestic home run for North Korea, who now not only have a credible nuclear deterrent but are set to gain de jure recognition of themselves as a nuclear power and the respect that entails – one of Pyongyang’s key policy aims.
It is hard to say where this flirtation will take the parties, but it is worth treating the North’s sincerity with the deepest scepticism — after all, we’ve been down this road before.


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