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Fragile peace on the Korean peninsula - can it last?

Ha Yoon Ah  |  2018-02-07 23:55
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have simmered in the midst of a flurry of diplomatic engagement after North Korea accepted a South Korean government invitation to participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, which begin this week. These were the first bilateral high level talks to occur between the two countries in two years. However, despite the improvements, the possibility remains that the North could engage in further provocative behavior.    

North Koreas eagerness to participate in the Olympics has led observers to believe that the Olympics will be peaceful, but questions remain as to whether that fragile peace will last after the event ends.


For further insights, Daily NK recently interviewed Yoon Duk Min, former director of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy (picture shown left). Yoon noted that it is extremely fortunate that the Olympic Games will be peaceful owing to the Norths participation, "but it is extremely difficult to foresee what will occur after the Games draw to a close.

Asked about the risk factors in the equation, Yoon explained that North Korea has demonstrated its intention to complete its development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and they will need to conduct at least two or three more tests to advance towards this goal.

"The possibility is high that the North will engage in provocative actions after the Olympics," he said. 

After North Korea completes its nuclear weapons program, it will then try to negotiate with the US. The North will ask the US to treat it like Pakistan, acknowledging it as a de facto nuclear power. The likelihood is high that it will use its ability to strike the US mainland to strengthen its negotiating position."

Despite its severe economic difficulties, North Korea conducted 25 ballistic missile tests and its 6th nuclear test last year, Yoon added. The North has tried to gain recognition as a nuclear power by squandering one to two billion US dollars of foreign currency to develop these weapons programs while ignoring the needs of its people. Since Kim Jong Un declared that the North has completed its nuclear program, its clear that he will try to negotiate with the US after the Olympics.           

The Norths strategy, according to Yoon, is ultimately to gain recognition as a nuclear power. It will try to bargain with the US, promising not to conduct any more ICBM tests that demonstrate a range that could strike the US on the condition that Washington overlooks the Norths continued possession of its existing nuclear weapons. With this in mind, Yoon estimates that the chances are high that North Korea could try to engage in diplomatic talks with the US this year.

The situation on the peninsula after the Olympics end will depend on North Korea. Because the situation could deteriorate if North Korea engages in another provocation, the international communitys task is to deliberate on how we can safely achieve denuclearization of the North, Yoon pointed out.

Yoon argues that South Korea should work proactively through the ironclad US-Korea relationship and reach out to the international community, including China, to come up with a solution to achieve denuclearization. It is important for the South Korean government to focus not only on improving North-South relations and engaging in inter-Korean dialogue, but also to serve as the lead in solving the North Korean nuclear problem.    

The international community is watching the manner in which South Korea is approaching the denuclearization of the North. They are waiting to see the extent to which the South is resolving the problem. The South should prioritize peninsular peace and denuclearization over North-South dialogue. As a member of the international community, it has this responsibility, Yoon concluded.
 
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