You would have to be at least 67 years old to remember (or at least been alive for) a time when North Korea and South Korea weren’t at war. Technically, the active battle ended in July of 1953, but the two nations have remained in a state of war since then. According to NBC News and multiple other outlets, the long wait is over and the leaders of the two nations have crossed the line together at the DMZ, shaken hands and declared the war to be at an end.
With small steps, the leaders of North and South Korea took a giant leap forward Friday, crossing each other’s borders in a historic meeting that could mark a turning point in one of the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.
Kim Jong Un and Moon Jae-in later signed a declaration stating there would be “no more war on the Korean Peninsula” and heralding “a new era of peace.”
The countries technically remain in a state of war.
Kim and Moon also agreed to “cease all hostile acts against each other” and to “transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone.”
So… is the war over? There’s an argument to be made that when the leaders of the two nations (and ultimately the commanders of their respective militaries) shake hands and say they’re done, then the war has ended. But their aides indicated that there would be an upcoming meeting between diplomats from both Koreas, China and the United States to hammer out the official armistice and sign on the dotted line. That likely sets a very different tone for the upcoming summit between Kim and President Trump.
Questions remain, however. The two leaders announced, “the common goal of complete denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.” But what does that mean? If Kim is hanging on to his existing warheads and missiles but shutting down the decrepit testing facilities and construction sites, that’s not really denuclearization, is it? That was the benchmark for most of the west throughout all of these discussions. Are we really going to walk away now and pretend that was never the case?
In any event, the two Koreas seem set to move forward. Moon said he would be traveling to Pyongyang in the fall and Kim will supposedly be coming to Seoul as well. But as the Washington Post was pointing out last night, we’ve seen this movie before and there are a lot of details to be worked out before this is a done deal. And even then, there’s no guaranteeing that North Korea won’t blow up the deal once they get what they want.
In an announcement Saturday that North Korea would not conduct any more nuclear or missile tests, Kim made no mention of giving up his program. He simply signaled a freeze.
“The devil will be in the details,” said Laura Rosenberger, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States who worked on North Korea policy in the Obama White House.
She cited the “Leap Day deal” debacle in 2012, when North Korea agreed to a moratorium on missile tests, only to launch what it said was a satellite about six weeks later.
“I worry about that kind of thing happening again,” she said.
All true, but at this point, I’m so exhausted with the entire process that I’d almost rather sit back, let them hash it out and see if maybe they can pull off a miracle. What’s the worst that can happen? If the whole thing falls apart we wind up back at the status quo we’ve been dealing with for a couple of decades now. As long as nobody pulls the trigger on open, military hostilities we really haven’t lost anything. And if they forge a lasting peace and North Korea gives up its missiles then the entire planet wins.
The inevitable question this morning in the media is whether or not President Trump deserves credit for making this happen and, if so, how much? It’s pretty hard to deny that he played a role in the process, albeit an unconventional one. (Although MSNBC will do their best to claim he had nothing to do with it at all.) There are already people suggesting that if this deal really comes together then Trump, Xi, Moon and Kim should jointly get the Nobel Peace Prize. Time will tell.
Exit question: Here’s a new theory as to how Trump was involved in this. What do you suppose the odds are that Kim and Moon were both so worried that Trump was going to launch a first strike and ignite a serious shooting war that they figured they’d better cut this deal sooner rather than later?