I realize everyone has a lot on their plate with domestic news in the wake of the midterms, particularly since the counting isn’t even over yet. But there have been some important developments abroad which are worth keeping an eye on. One of these popped up this weekend with an announcement from South Korea that they’ve reached one of the early milestones in their tentative rapprochement with the North. Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un have revealed that each side has “disarmed” and essentially abandoned eleven of the guard posts along the DMZ. This has some observers urging caution on the part of the South, but it still represents progresses toward peace. (Associated Press)
The North and South Korean militaries completed withdrawing troops and firearms from 22 front-line guard posts on Saturday as they continue to implement a wide-ranging agreement reached in September to reduce tensions across the world’s most fortified border, a South Korean Defense Ministry official said.
South Korea says the military agreement is an important trust-building step that would help stabilize peace and advance reconciliation between the rivals…
South Korea reportedly has about 60 guard posts — bunker-like concrete structures surrounded with layers of barbed-wire fences and manned by soldiers equipped with machine guns — stretched across the ironically named Demilitarized Zone.
The need for caution here is obvious. The problem with grand, sweeping gestures of peace when they aren’t being met with equal moves from the other side of the table is that you can wind up presenting an opening to someone who may, someday soon, once again be your enemy. Progress toward denuclearization of the North has essentially stalled since their last meeting with our Secretary of State. And Kim’s talk of reducing his conventional weapons along the border hasn’t materialized in any substantial way either.
By opening up a hole in the border, assuming they’re clearing all the mines out along that stretch, the North has a much easier path to invade if they decide to completely go back on their word. This certainly buys a lot of goodwill for Moon Jae-in in the eyes of the North, but history shows us that their gratitude can be short-lived and entirely reversible when it suits Dear Leader’s best interests.
Still, some progress is better than none, I suppose. And we haven’t given too much up to Kim Jong-un yet to the point where he should be tempted to walk away from the table. If the North and the South can somehow find peace, then we may have accomplished something remarkable, even if we haven’t entirely rid the Korean Peninsula of nukes yet.