Monday, April 30, 2018

Peace in our time?

It is amazing how fast the promises are flying. I am a bit loath to say “how fast things are changing,” because the reality is that nothing has actually changed yet. But there is potential. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is promising to denuclearize if he gets clear assurances from the United States that it won’t invade:
In a confidence-building gesture ahead of a proposed summit meeting with President Trump, a suddenly loquacious and conciliatory Mr. Kim also said he would invite experts and journalists from South Korea and the United States to watch the shutdown next month of his country’s only known underground nuclear test site.

In Washington, Trump officials spoke cautiously about the chances of reaching a deal and laid out a plan for the dismantling of the North’s nuclear program, perhaps over a two-year period.

That would be accompanied by a “full, complete, total disclosure of everything related to their nuclear program with a full international verification,” said John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s new national security adviser.

The apparent concessions from the youthful leader were widely welcomed as promising signs of ending the standoff on the Korean Peninsula, frozen in place since fighting in the Korean War ended 65 years ago.
This indeed is a game changer — if the promise and the denuclearization come to fruition.

And let’s be realistic: a lot could go wrong to derail this. Trump could get unsound advice from the belligerent Bolton and say the wrong thing, which causes Pyongyang to doubt any assurances from Washington, for example. Or Beijing could decide Pyongyang is getting too cozy with Seoul, or Washington and Tokyo, and scuttle the whole thing. Or this could all be a ruse by Pyongyang to bide it’s time and/or squeeze concessions and cash out of Seoul or Washington before resuming nukes again.

But color me optimistic. Kim Jong-un has a number of reasons to try to make nice with Seoul and Washington, among them that it’s possible his nuclear program has collapsed on its own. Also, it appears to be no small number of people in the North Korean regime who are tired of living under the thumb of Beijing, who might see advantage in gaining favor and trading status and/or developmental aid with the United States and Japan.

As I’ve said before, the Switzerland-educated Kim Jong-un may be poised to make himself the Deng Xiaoping of North Korea, poised to rule for decades based on bringing improvements to the masses.

But make no mistake: the Democratic People’s Republic is anything but democratic or the people’s; the regime if not Kim Jong-un himself is responsible for unspeakable atrocities against the North Korean people. And it’s entirely possible that North Korean government may fall back on its despotic ways. For now, it behooves to the Moon administration in Seoul to keep their feet on the ground even if they are looking to the sky, and the Trump administration must do its homework so that they don’t miss any opportunities or misunderstand any actions.

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