History was made on Friday when North and South Korean leaders crossed the demarcation line and shook hands, smiling like old friends. This new ‘buddy-buddy’ Korea comes just months after the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un launched missiles over Japan and threatened to bomb Guam into oblivion. So it makes sense why western leaders, including Donald Trump and German Prime Minister Angela Merkel, are uneasy about this sudden change of script.
North Korea had tried to play good cop in the past before too, like in 2005 when North Korea agreed to abandon their nuclear efforts, which surprise-surprise, didn’t end up happening. However, this is the furthest things have come regarding reaching a peace treaty between North and South. Pictures from the historic meeting, show South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un acting friendly enough, even embracing each other in a hug.
Technically North and South Korea have been at war since 1953, as no official peace treaty was ever signed between the two nations. Since then, the two Koreas have been in a long-term armistice, which is more or less a truce, but not an official end to the war. Over the past 65 years, the two sides have been dancing along that fine line between all-out bloodshed and open arms peace. This latest march towards a peaceful resolution started during the 2017 Winter Olympics in the South Korean city of PyeongChang. In the opening ceremony, North and South Korean athletes walked out under a single flag, making a statement to the world that a unified Korea is possible.
Kim and Moon made a joint statement today that made explicit mention of wanting to completely denuclearize the peninsula, both sides seeming to agree that nuclear weapons directly hinder the progress of peace between the Koreas. This joint statement is certainly good news, considering President Trump has plans to pay Kim Jong-un a visit in June. Then again, the President speculated on Fox & Friends that he might not have to meet with the North Korean leader anymore, thanks to recent efforts; but who knows how official that statement is. Today’s meeting is definitely important in its own right though.
Many, it may feel as though we are stepping back from hostile Tweets and the hysteria surrounding nuclear missile tests, we are not out of the woods yet. North and South Korea have agreed to a joint effort of removing nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula, but the details of the deal haven’t been worked out yet.
For some, the sudden change of heart is unsettling in its own right. It’s hard to forget that Trump and Kim were sharing some pretty fierce words with one another throughout 2017 and into early 2018. There is an abundance of speculation surrounding the issue, some arguing that the recent tunnel collapse at North Korea’s nuclear testing facility has spelled the end of Kim’s campaign against the world. The idea is that without sabers to rattle, Kim has no other choice but to cooperate with Western powers.
On the other hand, some argue that continuous hard-hitting sanctions have finally pushed the North Korean economy to a breaking point. Between the stories of starving North Korean citizens and China, the most significant supporter of the North, backing out over rising conflicts, it’s easy to see why Kim may feel backed into a corner.
There is still no telling where this will end up. As mentioned earlier, North Korea has leaned towards peace before, and each time they’ve either spoiled the deal or backed out before any real progress could be made. That being said, this is certainly the furthest things have gone, and with Trump scheduled to visit the North Korean leader this summer, things are bound to get far more interesting.