‘Coming Together’ of the two Koreas despite US’ Strenuous Efforts
Brigadier (Retd.) Dr. Ahsan ur Rahman Khan
It is worth reminding that, though North and South Koreas have never signed a peace treaty after the Korean War in 1953, thereby technically retaining the conflict in their divided peninsula, yet since long the desire for Korean unification existed between the two Koreas. And for that purpose Ministry of Unification exists as an executive department of the South Korean government aimed at promoting Korean reunification. It was first established in 1969 as the National Unification Board. It gained its current status in 1998 and has played a major role in promoting inter-Korean dialogues, exchanges and cooperation. The current minister is Cho Myung-gyun. (1). His North Korean counterpart is Ri Son Gwon.
However, there are obviously certain problems in the desired unification. An article in the TIME magazine dated 26 April 2018 highlights five problems – (a) different political systems; (b) different economies; (c) different social systems; (d) security problem of ensuring the non-proliferation of the huge conventional and nuclear arsenal of North Korea; and (e) the geopolitical problem for US, i.e. “Reunification — or even a formal peace treaty between North and South — would undermine Washington’s argument for its continued military presence” (2) in that region. US maintains about 40,000 troops in Japan and 28,000 in South Korea.
It is obvious that the first four problems, (a) to (d), are exclusively between the two Koreas and, though these are quite difficult, yet these can be solved mutually by the two Koreas, for which both are now showing the commitment – the similarly difficult unification of a Soviet East Germany and West Germany is an example.
However, the abovementioned geopolitical problem for US is the biggest problem, i.e. unification, or even any sort of a peaceful and friendly co-existence of the two Koreas, is not acceptable to US because such an eventuality will remove the ‘geopolitical excuse’ of US to retain its military presence in this region (‘Pivot Asia’ in the US’ military jargon) next door to China.
Keeping in view the longstanding US’ threats and pressures, North Korea had embarked upon developing nuclear weapon and missile technologies to develop a ‘deterrent’ to deter US’ aggressive threats. US responded by increasing its ‘strangulating pressure’ through its sponsored UN sanctions and its Ambassador Nikki Haley went further by demanding, “In addition to full implementation of UN sanctions, —— all countries to break their diplomatic relations with North Korea, to limit military, scientific, technical and commercial cooperation with the regime, to abolish trade with them and to reject all North Korean worker” (3).
Those sanctions did cause problems for the North Korean government, however it managed to survive due its ‘strategic will’, as also because those sanctions were violated, albeit surreptitiously, by a large number of countries. The 05 December 2017 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, Washington provides the details of those violations. Briefly, according to that report a total of 49 countries were found to be complicit in various forms of violations of UNSC sanctions resolutions on North Korea. Thirteen governments were found to be involved in violating military-related cases of sanctions. In the other cases of violations, (namely nonmilitary-related cases, imports of sanctioned goods and minerals from North Korea, and activities associated with the re-flagging of vessels and providing other assistance for shipments), a total of 44 countries (including 5 countries of the military-related violations) were involved. Eighteen countries, including major countries like Germany, France and India were involved in imports of sanctioned goods and minerals from North Korea (4).
It is noteworthy that the poverty-ridden North Korea had suffered a famine during the period 1994-1998, which claimed hundreds of thousands deaths due to hunger-related illness. However, after coming to power in 2011, Kim Jong Un has led his country to ‘sail through’ the economic difficulties despite US/UN sanctions, while also continuing to develop the ‘nuclear deterrent’. That reality has been reported in a report dated 3 June 2018 by South China Morning Post. It asserts, “Although UN sanctions have limited growth, North Korea’s financial health – and the physical health of its people – seem to be stabilising”; and “International observers also report that conditions in North Korea appear stable. David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), made an official trip to North Korea last month, visiting Pyongyang, Sinwon county in South Hwanghae province and Sinuiju city in North Pyongan province. Beasley said signs of hunger and malnourishment in the country had diminished. “What I did not see was starvation. In the 1990s, there was famine and starvation, but I saw none of them,” he said” (5).
And by now reportedly North Korea has nuclear weapons as also nuclear weapon capable missiles which can reach at least the western parts of US. It is this deterrent that even compelled US’ President Donald Trump, who previously use to threat devastation of North Korea, to have a ‘diplomatic’ meeting with the North Korean leader, and limit his ‘anti-North Korea efforts’ to the call for implementing the sanctions against North Korea.
And now the two Koreas have gone a major step ahead for their ‘coming together’ by opening a joint liaison office. According to a DW report dated 14 September 2018, that office has been inaugurated in the northern city of Kaesong jointly by the South Korean Unification Minister and his North Korean counterpart just a week before South Korean leader Moon Jae-in’s scheduled visit to the North Korean capital Pyongyang. This office has the office facility for the officers of both Koreas and a joint conference room for face-to-face meetings. Opening of this joint liaison office is the latest in a series of historic reconciliation moves, including family reunifications and two previous summits between South Korean Leader Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which have raised hope of thawing the political stalemate between the countries. (6)
In the final analysis, therefore, it appears more probable that the evolving changes towards mutual friendship between the two Koreas is irreversible; rather, it is most likely to grow further. Though their re-unification may not be on the cards in the immediate timeframe, yet their ‘coming together’ for a peaceful friendly co-existence in not too distant a timeframe is clearly foreseen. On its own part, US is most likely to continue its efforts, as long as possible, to obstruct this effort of the two Koreas, so as to retain its ‘military tentacle’ in South Korea on the perceived threat from North Korea – the logic of which is already on the wane.
Tags: #North Korea, #South Korea, UNSC Sanctions on North Korea, #US Sanctions on North Korea, #Violations of UNSC Sanctions, #Unification of the two Koreas, #Coming Together of the two Koreas, #US military in South Korea, #Nuclear weapons of North Korea, #Missiles of North Korea