Tectonic Shift
         Date: 10-May-2018

North Korean President Kim Jong-un’s recent visits to China and South Korea are big strides that he has taken after making his country a nuclear power. His impending meeting with Donal Trump is expected to reshape things in the Korean peninsula


 

While the Indian media was busy covering the historical informal summit meeting between Prime Minister Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in Central China, another path-breaking event was taking place in the nearby Korean peninsula. For the first time, after 65 years, a North Korean ruler entered South Korea in pursuit of peace for a summit meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae in. Incidentally, this was only the second time that North Korean Supremo Kim Jong-un was meeting any Head of a State ever since he assumed control in 2011 after the death of his father Kim Jong-il. The first meeting was held only a few weeks earlier when his train chugged into China for a secret meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping,  an event that was made public 48 hours after it took place. The recent meeting of Kim with the South Korean head of state is being interpreted by many as a precursor for the much-publicised summit meeting Kim is going to hold with US President Donald Trump sometimes towards the end of May or early June.

Not very long ago, the Korean peninsula had become a nuclear flashpoint and the media was agog with the speculations of a Third World War. The tension was so high that there was a constant twitter war between Kim and President Trump, each calling names and threatening to blow off the rival country. North Korea, ignoring the international pressure, continued on its path of nuclearisation and also claimed to have tested a hydrogen bomb somewhere in the Pacific. It launched on a project of testing a number of Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBM) and finally claimed to have tested an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) that could hit any city in the US.

This was the height of arrogance as both the US and China had warned Kim not to pursue his nuclear agenda. The Korean Peninsula was on fire. Even, Japan warned North Korea of severe consequences but to no avail. Many thought that Kim was digging his own grave because he was living in a constant fear of a coup or elimination. India also expressed its concerns because she was more worried about the Korean missiles getting into the hands of Pakistan. Russia almost remained a mute spectator enjoying the ringside view giving an impression that it gave clandestine support to the Korean despot.

Kim insisted on not halting his programme till it achieved nuclear parity with the USA. UN-sponsored international sanctions appeared to have no effect on Kim. The internal situation in North Korea was turning from bad to worse, there was an acute shortage of everything, and restrictions were laid on consumption of liquor and celebrations. The controlled Korean media fed the North Koreans fabricated stories including superstitious statements to make them believe that USA will eliminate North Korea unless their President Kim is able to develop nuclear capability to match that of USA. China, an ally of Korea, also came forward to cooperate with the international community and tightened the screws on North Korea through strict enforcement of economic sanctions. All international flights to North Korea were initially curtailed and then cancelled. The entire economic aid dried up and isolation of North Korea was complete. It goes to the credit of Kim that despite total international isolation he did not compromise the pursuit of his nation’s nuclear strategy.

Two-Pronged Strategy

The North Korean nuclear strategy is two-pronged. The first prong envisaged the development of nuclear deterrence so that North Korea could not be blackmailed by any rival power. The second prong envisaged using deterrence as a leverage to develop friendly relations with international community particularly with the USA and work for peace, prosperity and reunification in Korean Peninsula. Contrary to the popular belief it is the second prong of nation’s nuclear strategy that has led to the change in heart of Kim and NOT the international sanctions. He withstood the international sanctions.

 

It is, therefore, the pursuit of peace and prosperity that has made Kim take that historic step of breaking the barriers and stepping into South Korean territory for a summit meeting. Kim is not only a despot but a shrewd thinker as well. He, therefore, made President May step into North Korean territory as well signalling that they both were willing to walk miles together for ushering in an era of peace in the Korean Peninsula and convert the demilitarised zone (DMZ) into a Zone of Peace.  The two leaders appeared to be very sincere in their desire for peace and reunification. Sceptics quote the earlier failed efforts in 2007 and 2010 for not going overboard with the current initiative.  However, the strategic scenario has changed ever since then with North Korea acquiring Nuclear Deterrence and Kim is seen to be pursuing a well- planned strategy. The two leaders have announced a slew of confidence-building measures (CBMs) that plan to bring the two Koreas closer leading to ultimate reunification. They have announced their desire to sign a Treaty of Peace later this year bringing an end to a virtual state of war that exists between the two ever since 1950-53 Korean War. “I feel that we are part of one family and both countries will have a new policy of cooperation. After years of disputes, we are here today to say that nothing will make us different again,” said Kim. “Kim Jong-un and I declare that there will be no more war on the Korean Peninsula and a new age of peace has begun,” responded Moon.

Trump-Kim Summit

Much will depend on the outcome of the Kim-Trump summit meeting due next month. Trump boasts he has forced the issue through his tough stance on North Korea during his first year in office, and vowed that he will be a sharper negotiator than any of his predecessors. Trump also credits the personal bond he forged with Chinese President Xi Jinping for fostering the rapid turnabout with North Korea.

(The author is a Jammu-based political commentator and strategic analyst)

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“KOREAN WAR TO END! The United States, and all of its GREAT people, should be very proud of what is now taking place in Korea!”

— Donald Trump, President