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In 2018, Who Will Speak Up for Peace in the Korean Peninsula?

Viewpoint by Rick Wayman

Photo: In May 2015, on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two separate states by cold war powers, 30 international women peacemakers from around the world walked with thousands of Korean women, north and south, to call for an end to the Korean War, reunification of families and women’s leadership in the peace process. Credit. San Francisco based Niana Liu.

Rick Wayman is Programs Director of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF). In April 2016, he received the 'Activist of the Year' award from the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability (ANA) for "dynamic leadership in bringing the Marshall Islanders' Nuclear Zero litigation to world attention, activating the next generation of peace leaders, and guiding ANA as board member and tech guru." – The Editor

SANTA BARBARA, CA (IDN) - A possible summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un is just weeks away. Questions abound: Is it a good idea? When and where will it take place? What will they talk about? Who, if anyone, is preparing the U.S. president for this high-stakes meeting? Will it be a success? [P 42] JAPANESE TEXT VERSON  PDF | MALAY | PERSIAN | SPANISH | TURKISH | THAI

In the Trump era, it’s impossible to even guess what the answers might be. However, there are some key issues that must be remembered if this unprecedented summit is indeed to make a lasting difference in the generations-old conflict on the Korean Peninsula.

Sovereignty

South Korea is a sovereign nation. Its president, Moon Jae-in, was elected in 2017 after campaigning on a platform of dialogue and reconciliation with North Korea. Moon stated unequivocally that he wants his nation to be “able to take the lead on matters on the Korean Peninsula.”

The PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics and the associated Olympic Truce, which began on February 2 and runs through March 25, gave North and South Korea the opportunity to re-establish diplomatic efforts and military-to-military communications. Much of the Western media spun North Korea’s attendance at the Games and associated diplomatic efforts as an effort to drive a “wedge” between the U.S. and South Korea.

This U.S.-centric mindset discounts the South Korean president’s knowledge of the situation and the South Korean people’s desire for peace. President Moon’s current 74% approval rating reflects that he is pursuing a course that the majority of South Koreans want.

An April summit between Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un will precede the more hyped Kim-Trump summit. The two Korean leaders have an historic opportunity to ensure the security of their millions of citizens through dialogue and cooperative relations.

Denuclearize

A common demand of North Korea by the United States is that North Korea must give up its nuclear weapons. This is often referred to as a demand that North Korea “denuclearize,” or that the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized.

A statement from the South Korean envoys who visited North Korea earlier in March 2018 said: “The North made clear its will to denuclearize the Korean peninsula and clearly stated that if military threats against the North are resolved and the security of its system is guaranteed, it has no reason to possess nuclear weapons.”

When we talk about denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, we must remember that in addition to North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the United States also has hundreds of nuclear weapons “locked and loaded,” in the words of President Trump. U.S. bomber aircraft, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles all have the capability to “totally destroy” North Korea.

It’s unclear what would encompass a sufficient security guarantee for the North Koreans. Would it be an agreement by the U.S. and South Korea to cease joint military exercises practicing an invasion of North Korea? Would it be a promise for the United States to participate in good-faith negotiations, along with North Korea and the other seven nuclear-armed nations, to achieve complete nuclear disarmament?

A key element of any security agreement must be a peace treaty to finally end the Korean War. The war, which began in 1950, was paused in 1953 with an Armistice Agreement. Today, 65 years later, a peace treaty remains unsigned.

Speaking in Berlin in 2017, President Moon said, “We should make a peace treaty joined by all relevant parties at the end of the Korean War to settle a lasting peace on the peninsula.”

Women Waging Peace

It is essential to include the voices of women in any peace negotiations. In a March 7 webinar entitled “Women Waging Peace,” Christine Ahn of Women Cross DMZ and Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK discussed the indispensable role of women in peace negotiations generally, and specifically in the context of Korea.

Ahn said, “We now have 30 years of evidence that shows that when women are involved, it leads to an actual peace agreement, and it’s far more durable.”

Christine Ahn expanded on these thoughts in her excellent March 7 lecture for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 17th Annual Frank K. Kelly Lecture on Humanity’s Future. She also announced that Women Cross DMZ will be organizing a DMZ crossing – subject to government approvals – in May 2018.

Stop Provoking

The U.S. and South Korea plan to resume joint military exercises, albeit on a somewhat reduced scale, in April. This is unnecessarily provocative, but seems to be happening regardless. The U.S. scheduled, and then quietly cancelled, a test of its Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile in early February in order to comply with the Olympic Truce.

North Korea, for its part, has agreed that “as long as talks continue, it will not resume strategic provocations, such as additional nuclear or ballistic missile tests.”

A formal resolution of the Korean War is unlikely to materialize unless people demand it. With a White House that touts a violent vision of “peace,” it is up to people in the U.S. and around the world to speak up in support of President Moon’s pursuit of a peace treaty. [IDN-InDepthNews – 23 March 2018]

Photo: In May 2015, on the 70th anniversary of Korea’s division into two separate states by cold war powers, 30 international women peacemakers from around the world walked with thousands of Korean women, north and south, to call for an end to the Korean War, reunification of families and women’s leadership in the peace process. Credit. San Francisco based Niana Liu.

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.

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