North Korea far from a done deal

The celebrations about peace and harmony in Korea was a bit premature.

On May 9th, Trump was asked if he thought that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize because of his North Korea diplomacy. “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it”.

North and South Korea have been working together despite Trump’s undiplomatic approach, although the US has contributed through the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was trying to set up the May meeting between Trump and Kim Yong Un.

But Kim may have thrown a spanner in the works. Nobel may have to put their considerations on hold.

New Yorker: Just How Fragile Is Trump’s North Korea Diplomacy?

The new diplomacy is still fragile. In a surprise announcement, North Korea indefinitely suspended the second round of talks between senior officials from the two Koreas—due to be held at the D.M.Z. on Wednesday. It blamed joint military exercises between South Korean and U.S. military forces. Pyongyang viewed the operation as “a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency reported.

The Trump Administration was totally blindsided by the move, just five days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from his second round of talks with Kim to prepare for the Trump summit. Kim had even told Pompeo that he understood the “need and utility” of continued exercises between two countries with which North Korea is still technically at war, the State Department told reporters. The White House scrambled to clarify and respond.

The impending summit was technically designed to discuss “denuclearization”—a term first used, in 1992, to get around talk of “disarmament,” which North Korea feared would make it sound more vulnerable in a volatile neighborhood. Over the weekend, however, the Trump Administration declared that more than North Korea’s nuclear arsenal will be negotiated in Singapore.

“Denuclearization is absolutely at the core of it, and it means not just the nuclear weapons,” the national-security adviser, John Bolton, told ABC on Sunday. “North Korea’s previously agreed, several times, in fact, to give up its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities. We’ve got the ballistic-missile issues on the table. We’ve got to look at chemical and biological weapons.”

After their meeting last week, Pompeo said that Kim fully understood that the U.S. goal is complete denuclearization. In public, however, North Korea has been ambiguous, at best.

South Koreans know that the Singapore summit is the riskiest U.S. initiative ever undertaken.

And premature celebrations and accolades added to the risks.

In Seoul and along the D.M.Z., South Koreans—both supporters and skeptics of the new diplomacy—told me that they don’t care much about Trump’s motive, as long as it refocusses his energies through the rest of his Presidency. Just six months ago, inflammatory rhetoric threatened to end a truce that has been in place since 1953.

The noisy belligerence produced drastic predictions of a conflagration far costlier than the first Korean War. It could easily produce a quarter-million deaths in Seoul—a city of ten million people just ninety minutes from the D.M.Z.—and a million casualties in all of South Korea, military experts told me. North Korea would almost certainly be harder hit.

The risks of it all turning to custard must still be high, especially if the US pushes too hard and keeps making tough talk public statements.

Another complication is the US walking out of the Iran deal. North Korea would be justified in being sceptical of the strength of any deal with the US – and with Trump, who has dumped on other US deals as well, like the TPPA and NAFTA.

For now, all’s quiet on the northern front. My first stop near the D.M.Z. was an amusement park at the edge of the restricted area that offered kiddie rides. A small shopping mall had a Popeyes and a Sam’s Bagels as well as Korean food outlets. South Korean families were out enjoying the spring sunshine and the tentative peace. At souvenir shops, I bought kitsch D.M.Z. T-shirts and framed pieces of barbed wire cut from the frontier, reminiscent of scraps once sold of the Berlin Wall.

One of my final stops was at the observation post near Paju, where some of the fiercest battles of the Korean War raged. I peered through big binoculars, grounded on posts, at spooky Peace Village, on the other side of the D.M.Z. It’s often referred to as Propaganda Village. It appeared modern, with concrete apartment blocks and buildings and roads. But it is reportedly a shell that provides an illusion of life—largely motionless, like the nearby statue of the country’s first leader.

The sign atop the observation post declared “End of Separation, Beginning of Unification.”

As I left, I thought how it will take big and bold and tangible diplomacy by the American and Korean leaders—a lot more than turning off the propaganda loudspeakers or blowing up a tunnel of doubtful use—to really insure that the D.M.Z. is permanently silent.

It may also take a rethink of Trump/US diplomacy, or lack thereof.

As well as a rethink of what may be worth of a Nobel Peace prize.

 

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15 Comments

  1. David

     /  May 17, 2018

    When Trump was asked about the peace prize he said he wanted to get peace and expressed little interest in anything but denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, its been a discussion amongst others not a Trump led thing.
    Anti Trumpers need to get back on their meds, last week he was being to nice to Kim and would get a rubbish deal and now he is being too tough in his demands and a bit of a meany.
    When you get to the point that you would rather watch the world burn than Trump have a win that you might have to grudgingly acknowledge you have lost your humanity and perspective.

    Reply
    • When you say things hat no one is claiming like “When you get to the point that you would rather watch the world burn than Trump have a win” that no one is claiming then your own perspective is in doubt.

      Reply
      • David

         /  May 17, 2018

        I bet you in the newsroom at CNN/NY Times/Washington Post/MSNBC there would be a lot of people who would much rather Trump didnt bring peace and would totally lose their shit if he won a peace prize.

        Reply
      • High Flying Duck

         /  May 17, 2018

        By a process of elimination that is exactly what many in the media are claiming. They bag every action he takes and refuse to allow the prospect of credit for success.

        Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  May 17, 2018

      What half wit has a military exercise just before peace talks with a country with nukes and missiles???do you know who, someone who got bone spurs to avoid bringing peace through actions in his countries military why being a( coward) and has turned orange why trampling grass every day on a golf course,that sort of half wit
      ps wave the NOBLE PEACE away trump

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  May 17, 2018

        You’re like Obama, Lurchy. You protest too much. Trump does.

        Reply
      • David

         /  May 17, 2018

        “What half wit has a military exercise just before peace talks with a country with nukes and missiles?”

        A half wit who is smarter than you.

        Reply
        • lurcher1948

           /  May 17, 2018

          On his team are you David…good luck with that

          Reply
          • David

             /  May 18, 2018

            I’m not on his team. It’s a simple observation that by describing him as a half wit reveals your own stupidity. Holding ‘military exercise just before peace talks’ is a very sound idea, you clearly missed out of the most basic education on negotiating. Nor do you have the wit to realise this is not just a decision by Trump alone.

            Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  May 17, 2018

          Lurch, be fair, he didn’t get them on purpose….but he doesn’t seem to have been in any hurry to have them treated which doesn’t seem to be too difficult. There may have been a longggggggggggggg waiting list that didn’t see him reaching the top of the queue until the Vietnam War was over.

          Reply
  2. Zedd

     /  May 17, 2018

    Mr T was talking up the ‘big summit/pow wow’ with Mr K.. then USA join ROK in flexing their military muscle, on the brink of it. Just shows that it was likely, to be a one-sided ‘Denuke talks’ (meaning DPRK).
    Mr K can obviously see through Mr Ts B-S ! :/

    Reply

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