The prospects for peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula have taken a turn for the worse. From Stu Smallwood at antiwar.com:
“His shameless talk of dialogue between the North and South [at a time like this] raises questions about his mental faculties… We have nothing to say to South Korean authorities and have no intention of sitting down with them again.”*
These are just some of the highlights of a North Korean spokesperson’s ruthless response to Moon Jae-in’s August 15 Liberation Day speech in which the South Korean president called for unification of Korea by 2045 and the establishment of a North-South peace economy.
The “time like this” mentioned by the spokesperson for the North Korean Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country is a reference to the insulting training drills ongoing between South Korean and US forces – specifically a simulated counterinsurgency campaign in North Korea after successfully conquering Pyongyang in 90 days.
Laughable as this simulated scenario is (China and Russia would never sit back and let North Korea be conquered so swiftly), the comments embody the all-too-predictable outcome of these offensive drills: the North Korean government is upset and has lost complete trust in the South Korean president who once led the peace process.
Trump talks a lot about big, bold initiatives. It’s time to actually do one with North Korea. From John Feffer at antiwar.com:
Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet again. Here are several reasons to be optimistic about next month’s summit.
The second meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is scheduled for next month. The most likely location will be Vietnam. The agenda is much the same as before: how to get North Korea to denuclearize and the United States to dismantle its sanctions regime. The question remains: which side will make the first substantial move?
The summit comes at a particular difficult time for Trump. The partial shutdown of the federal government is nearing the end of its third week, and most Americans blame the president. Pentagon chief James Mattis resigned over Trump’s insistence on withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria, a policy that other administration officials have attempted to reverse. The president faces fresh criticism of his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. And the House of Representatives, now in the hands of the opposition Democratic Party, is getting ready to launch a slew of investigations into Trump’s affairs and policies.
Kim Jong UN, on the other hand, has been busy consolidating his position. He visited China for the fourth time this month and began making arrangements for Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s first visit to North Korea this spring. Relations with the South are proceeding more-or-less smoothly, with the groundbreaking ceremony for a new inter-Korean railroad taking place late last year.
Is Kim Jong Un out-wheeling and out-dealing Master of the Deal Donald Trump? From Kent Harrington and John Walcott at marketwatch.com:
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is eager to hold a second summit with U.S. President Donald Trump. Since their first meeting in Singapore in June, Kim has consistently outmaneuvered his counterpart. Trump may still fancy himself a world-class deal maker, but the truth is that Kim — like Russian President Vladimir Putin — has got Trump’s number.
Kim’s bonhomie (real or feigned) and promises of denuclearization have muted Trump’s threats, brought the South Korean government closer to his side, and eroded international sanctions against his regime. Kim has accomplished all of this without diminishing his regime’s nuclear capacity, and he appears to have continued ballistic-missile development at 16 hidden sites. Having gone from nuclear-armed pariah to presidential negotiating partner, it is little wonder that Kim would want a second summit to consolidate his newfound international legitimacy and position in the global limelight.
To the consternation of much of the US government and mainstream media, the two Koreas continue to make progress towards reconciliation and peace. From Peter Van Buren at medium.com:
What is the state of diplomacy on the Korean peninsula? Are we again heading toward the lip of war, or is progress being made at an expected pace? Are there Asian Neocons fanning the flames for conflict in Pyongyang much as others did with Baghdad?
A year ago, in November 2017, John Brennan estimated the chance of a war with North Korea at 20 to 25 percent. Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, said the odds were 50/50. The New York Times claimed we were “slouching toward war” with the North, on a “collision course.” National security adviser HR McMaster said North Korea represented “the greatest immediate threat to the United States” and that the potential for war with the communist nation grew each day. The U.S. lacked an ambassador in Seoul; Victor Cha was rejected by Trump because, according to “sources and reports,” he didn’t support a preemptive strike on Pyongyang. It was reported the U.S. was “imminently preparing for an attack on North Korea,” driven in part by hawks like Mike Pompeo and John Bolton.
All that was wrong.
While the rest of the world isn’t paying much attention, North and South Korea are taking steps towards eventual reconciliation and peace. From John Feffer at antiwar.com:
The media is missing the real story on the peninsula. If that gives Koreans space to lead, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
Remarkable changes are taking place on the Korean peninsula.
The two Koreas are actually starting to demilitarize the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Just in the last couple weeks, they have taken down 22 guard posts, demined the Joint Security Area, and established a no-fly-zone about the peninsula’s dividing line. They’ve pulled back from confrontation along their maritime boundary. North Korea has shut down its coastal artillery units and the two sides have discussed a plan to reduce the large number of artillery positions near the border.
One key indicator of the seriousness of these changes: speculators are driving up the price of land near the border on the South Korean side. Even in a slow-motion reunification scenario, this farmland will become increasingly valuable.
The two Koreas have also revived plans to reunify economically, step by step. At the third inter-Korean summit, the leaders of the two countries agreed to relink, finally, the railroad as well as roads and to restart the shuttered Kaesong industrial complex, which married North Korean labor with South Korean capital and managerial skills. Also on tap is the resumption of tourism projects that have brought large numbers of South Koreans to select locations in the north.
All of this has been met with deafening silence in the United States. Worse, the big Korea news this week is, once again, about what the perfidious North Koreans are doing to reinforce the Cold War, not dismantle it.
But maybe this silence is a good thing.
The days of Asian countries living under the US defense umbrella but enjoying the fruits of trade with China may be coming to a close. This has substantial investment implications. From Ritesh Jain at worldoutofwhack.com:
There are those in financial markets who believe that Mike Pence’ s bellicose speech at The Hudson Institute a few weeks ago was merely sabre rattling ahead of the US mid-term elections. Sadly your analyst could not disagree more. That speech, reported in the last Solid Ground newsletter, has now been followed by the United States’ threat to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) with Russia. For those who still believe this has nothing to do with China, the US President made it clear on October 22nd that the withdrawal from the INF is as much about countering a threat from China as it is about countering a threat from Russia:
“Until people come to their senses, we will build it up…” “It’s a threat to whoever you want and it includes China, and it includes Russia, and it includes anybody else that wants to play that game. You can’t do that. You can’t play that game on me.”
Posted in Financial markets, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Politics, Trade, War
Tagged China, Europe, INF Treaty, Japan, Russia, South Korea
North and South Korea are making more diplomatic progress than they have since the Korean War, but their efforts are being denigrated or ignored. From Mel Gurtov at antiwar.com:
On September 18 leaders of North and South Korea signed a September Declaration to advance inter-Korean cooperation and the possibility of the North’s denuclearization. Critics immediately dismissed the agreement for having accomplished nothing on the latter objective while largely ignoring what was accomplished on the former. From my perspective, the critics have it wrong: They have bought into the Trump administration’s narrative about denuclearization and failed to pay attention to the importance of North-South Korean cooperation as a tool for reducing tensions on the peninsula and, potentially, for neutralizing if not eliminating North Korea’s nuclear weapons.
Few people outside Washington are likely to read the text of the September Declaration or the accompanying military agreements signed by the two countries’ defense ministers. These documents, far from being mere window dressing, contain substantive tension-reducing steps. And the symbolism is important too: These are agreements by and for Koreans. As the declaration states: “The two leaders reaffirmed the principle of independence and self-determination of the Korean nation, and agreed to consistently and continuously develop inter-Korean relations for national reconciliation and cooperation. . . . ”