How to achieve denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 28, 2019
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People watch a TV live broadcast on top leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea Kim Jong-un meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in Seoul, South Korea, Feb. 27, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are scheduled to travel to South Korea in late June, and one vital issue on the agenda for talks with President Moon Jae-in is the complex issue of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The visit will bring focus back on achieving peace with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) that slipped into the background after the unsuccessful summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un held last February in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. 

The peaceful resolution of the Korean conflict merits the highest consideration as the two Koreas are technically still at war after their truce of 1953 brought only an uneasy peace often disrupted with outbreaks of further violence.  

The contours of the conflict as well as priorities of the parties have changed over the decades. Now, the issue of denuclearization has moved up to occupy centerstage in efforts for permanent peace.

For the U.S., denuclearization of the Koran peninsula means the DPRK destroys all stockpiles and voluntarily gives up its nuclear potential by dismantling all sites used for the development of such weaponry. 

According to a recent statement by the White House, President Trump and Secretary Pompeo will continue coordination on efforts to "achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea."

However, such a denuclearization policy is actually one-sided. Its aim is to denuclearize DPRK only without considering the broader strategic situation of the Korean peninsula. All U.S. efforts have been to convince or force the DPRK to surrender its nuclear program without really meeting the DPRK's concerns for its security.

Since South Korea does not actually possess its own nuclear arsenal, once the Pyongyang regime is deprived of existing nukes and the capability to develop any more, the U.S. objective of denuclearization of Korean peninsula theoretically is achieved. 

However, it does seem that, for the U.S., the lifting of its nuclear umbrella for South Korea is not part of the denuclearization package. The Americans could argue that, technically, its presence in Korea is not permanent but forms part of a defense deal for South Korean security. 

South Korea might not need presence of U.S. forces on its soil after complete peace with the DPRK was restored. However, Moon Jae-in has shown a lack of keenness to discuss the details at this point, as it would derail his government's own efforts to achieve a peace accord with the DPRK. 

Nevertheless, Moon has taken lead in diplomatic effort to bring Washington and Pyongyang closer with the hope that their rapprochement would ultimately result in peace between the two Koreas and end decades of bad blood.

The last meeting between Trump and Kim in Hanoi failed as the two could not agree on details of reciprocal relief to Kim's government to reward his commitment and efforts for denuclearization. 

U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in during their meeting at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on April 11, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Moon later flew to Washington to meet Trump and discuss the next step, as none of the parties to the Koran conflict are in a position to afford any resurgence of the longstanding toxic tension. His efforts in this regard should be seen as being behind the upcoming visit of the American leadership to Seoul. 

The understanding between Trump and Moon can lead to fresh efforts for another summit between Trump and Kim. The U.S. is not averse to summit-level talks and this has been confirmed by State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus telling reporters that Washington remains open to negotiations with Pyongyang. 

Speaking at the Oslo Forum in the Norwegian capital in late May, Moon said it was important that Trump and Kim should meet again. He also expressed hope for his own meeting with Kim ahead of Trump's arrival in Seoul. 

Informal talks on the Korean issue may also take place among leaders on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Japanese city of Osaka on June 28-29.

Let us understand that denuclearization of Korean Peninsula cannot be achieved in isolation. It is a complex issue and success will come only through a comprehensive peace formula that should accommodate the security concerns and economic interests of all players. 

But the first step towards any broader agreement will come through some kind of understanding between the U.S. and the DPRK. Hence, it is important that leaders of the two countries renew diplomatic engagements.  

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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