Today, April 27, 2018, will go down as the day that the road to an enduring peace in Korea was taken, and two of the key leaders in that process, President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, stepped across the DMZ to begin serious talks toward that end. Or, it may go down as one more path that led to frustration and a dead-end. I’m betting on the first; no guarantees, but we must try—with eyes wide open.
Why? For one thing, conditions of an enduring stalemate have kept Korean families, with relatives across that border, apart—cruelly depriving those families from seeing their grandparents, sometimes even parents and other family members across the border. A peace treaty can end that situation and let families visit across the border, ultimately reuniting them, a major humanitarian achievement.
Second, 78.1% of the South Korean people are strongly behind President Moon’s efforts, as he has declared not only a desire for peace, but a roadmap to a Peace Treaty. This is immensely popular on both sides of the border, and the right strategic goal for Korea.
Third, Kim Jong-un, at his recent Party Congress, made public promises to his people—We shall move, he said, from a policy of “military first”, to a policy of “economic progress for the people of Korea.” This promise cannot be met without moving toward an opening to South Korea, re-opening the clogged Chinese border, and building a bridge to the world economy.
Finally, despite denials, Presidents Trump and Kim have both made certain concessions. By stepping across the border, Kim implicitly recognized South Korea, with which the North has no relations, and vice-versa. By accepting Kim’s offer of a meeting in May or June, President Trump so far has bought into the idea of peaceful nuclear disarmament (a more precise term than ‘denuclearization’) of the Korean Peninsula. We’ll see, as they say.
But Kim has until now made a huge investment of his country’s limited resources in his nuclear weapons program. So, to show he will be “very honorable” (Trump’s words) in the process, Kim has stopped nuclear and ICBM missile testing, and closed the known nuclear test facility near the Chinese border. That’s a big deal, though some pundits don’t want to recognize it. What will Mr. Trump do in return? His main “concession” has been to say he’ll meet—even there, he’s said since he’ll “respectfully leave the meeting” if he doesn’t find satisfactory progress.
The reasonable approach once again, is that of President Moon Jae-in. His formula for a Roadmap to Peace, is “Action-for- Action.” That is, over a defined period, say two years, “the North takes steps to dismantle its nuclear arsenal” and in return gets “economic benefits and security guarantees.” Moon sees himself as an honest broker—he recognizes that both Trump and Kim will have to concede some of their hardline points in order to achieve a workable Roadmap. The final reward for all, is a permanent Korean Peace Treaty.
As a director of the Coalition for Peace Action, I’ve watched many negotiating projects take place, from New START with Russia, to the Iran Agreement, both of which we actively supported, and which took years of concentrated talks—and need to be continued, not ended. It is time for Trump and Kim to concentrate their minds and their policies, and sign on to a Roadmap to a permanent peace in the Korean Peninsula.
Ed Aguilar, Pennsylvania Director
Coalition for Peace Action | www.Peacecoalition.org
Contact Ed at aguilarcfpa1@ gmail.com