Inter-Korea Summit III is within reach

By Earl Bousquet
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, February 18, 2018
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in (3rd R) meets with a high-ranking delegation of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), led by Kim Yong Nam (3rd L), president of the Presidium of the Supreme People's Assembly, at the Blue House in Seoul, capital of South Korea, on Feb. 10, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the Republic of Korea (ROK), despite their frosty ties over six decades, have several times warmly reached out to each other over the militarized border fence that divides them. Past leaders have talked, joint communications channels and industrial zones exist and they have fielded joint teams during the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The current level of contact between the two Koreas was unimaginable at the end of 2017 – as is the pace of positive developments thus far in 2018.

With only one or two exceptions, the rest of the world has responded positively to the avalanche of encouraging developments leading to and during the 23rd Winter Olympics, which the ROK president, from Day One, dubbed "the Peace Olympics." 

The ROK's decision to suspend the joint annual war drills with the USA and Japan during the Olympic and Paralympic Games was also widely welcomed worldwide.

A clear disconnect has arisen between the ROK and its two major military partners, the USA and Japan. But that didn't happen overnight. The election of President Moon Jae-in last year was not greeted with glee in Washington – and that was seen and heard clearly soon after, during his first visit to the White House. 

But even so, the ROK leader still took every opportunity to indicate a willingness to talk peace and break bread with the DPRK.

The DPRK's sudden decision to participate in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, the reopening of the inter-Korea communications hotline after two years of silence, the ROK's agreement to team-up with Pyongyang for the Pyeongchang Games, Seoul's decision to suspend the war games during the international sporting games and its welcome of a top party and government delegation from Pyongyang – all served to rack brains in Washington like never before.

Clearly unable to halt the pace and momentum of the hot new inter-Korean dialogue and cooperation over the Winter Games, Washington went into offensive overdrive. 

Even before arriving in the ROK to attend the opening of the games as a top guest, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence made it quite clear the U.S. was in total disagreement with the simmering Korean coziness. He announced that the U.S. would soon launch the worst-ever sanctions as part of Washington's exertion of "maximum pressure" on the DPRK.

The U.S. vice president not only arrived in the ROK with a pocketful of hard lines from Washington, but also proceeded to violate protocols by publicly snubbing his fellow top guests from the DPRK, boycotting a special dinner the host arranged for top guests and sat while all others stood to salute the bypass of the joint Korean Olympic team.

Fortunately, nothing Pence or the U.S. said or did succeeded in derailing the fruitful North-South dialogue held during the three-day stay of the DPRK delegation. 

Now that the basis has been firmly laid and the two sides have vowed to continue their contact, it is for all sides involved to understand and accept that achievement of inter-Korean peace through dialogue should not be left only to Seoul and Pyongyang.

At this time, provocative words and actions need to be shelved and replaced by routine peace talks. Instead of issuing threats, Washington should change gear and join the accelerated pace of progress towards peace.

Denuclearization of the entire Korean Peninsula has to be the top agenda item now and become a common strategic goal for all sides – especially the DPRK. 

Similarly, with the military drills shelved until March 15, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics Peace Games can also trigger the beginning of the ultimate end of the annual Peninsula War Games.

President Moon's acceptance of the letter of invitation from President Kim Jong-un to visit the DPRK at his convenience and his indicated preparedness to do so once the conditions are made right, must be respected and encouraged, not questioned.

Two inter-Korean Summits have been held and a third should be the next logical step. 

Given the pace of progress between North and South thus far, Summit III is no more an unimaginable proposition. Instead, its realization is very possible – and within reach. 

The two neighbors can and must, therefore, both be encouraged and assisted to make it happen.

Earl Bousquet is a contributor to, editor-at-large of The Diplomatic Courier and author of an online regional newspaper column entitled Chronicles of a Chronic Caribbean Chronicler.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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