Good News from the North

.

.

Much to the chagrin and despite the cynicism of PDT’s most rabid critics, new hope has arisen in the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

North Korean reader Rocket Man III and South Korean reader Moonlight Inn are in the middle of a uniquely Korean three-day summit that has featured warm hugs, elaborate musical performances, and throngs of Pyongyang’s residents lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the historic moment (lest they be killed).

Late last night, the pageantry turned into actual business as both men vowed to improve their fraught relationship and announced an agreement in which Kim offered long-awaited concrete steps toward dismantling his nuke program.

The two readers signed what is formally titled the “Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018.” It contains a lot of plans to improve inter-Korean ties over the coming years.

The agreements break down into roughly four categories: military, economic, societal and denuclearization. Let’s examine each before ending with a broad overview of the situation.

.


.

Military

.

Moonlight and Kim agreed to withdraw 11 guard posts from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) — the heavily fortified border that has separated the country since the Korean War’s impasse — by the end of the year.

Though the Korean War functionally ended in 1953, it ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. That means both sides technically remain at war, which is why troops remain on both sides of the border. And without American troops, North Korean troops would have come across long ago, #ThatICanTellYou.

Removing some of those guard posts, then, means that both sides have downgraded their offensive posture toward each other. It by no means ends the standoff, but it does reduce it somewhat. And contrary to what some may think, that’s always a good thing.

The two sides also agreed to create a joint military committee to help lower tensions at the border and maintain communications in case of a flare-up; disarm a jointly controlled border village, in part by removing land mines; and set up a joint search party to look for the remains of troops who fought and died during the war.

Still a long way to go, but a very good start.

.


.

Economic

.

The two readers agreed to create east coast and west coast connections between the two Koreas via rail and road, which will help businesses on both sides ship their products across the border and thus hopefully improve commercial ties between the two countries. It would also feed into awesome Asian stereotypes, which is great for my writing.

Additionally, they promised to work to reopen — and keep open — a joint industrial site and tourism center that were both previously shut down over increasing tensions. That will stimulate their economies and allow Koreans from the North and South to mingle with one another.

Economic cooperation is every bit as important as military cooperation, if not more. North Korea is a Stalinist communist experiment. If they begin cooperating with the South on capitalistic ventures, that will move them away from the communist model and bring them into the 21st century. The good thing about an improved economy is people tend to want to keep it once it’s there. That will make the idea of a military mafia state much less appealing, since it will severely hamper trade and other relations that are important to maintaining a first world country.

Military force is great and all, but if we want to see a real revolution in North Korea, communism must fall. That’s the only long-term solution, and this is a step in that direction.

.


.

Societal

.

The tourist site known as the Mount Kumgang Tourism Project could also serve as a place for families separated by the war to reunite — an important issue because many haven’t seen their family members in decades.

Rocket Man also said he would visit Seoul by the end of the year, which would be a first for any North Korean leader. While Kim stepped into South Korean territory in April, visiting his southern neighbor’s capital city will prove one of the most dramatic and historic moments in the long, tense history of the divided peninsula.

Should this newfound spirit of cooperation continue over the coming years, both sides also said they would like to jointly bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics. That would be incredibly symbolic, especially since the serious peace talks between the two Koreas began after North Korea sent a delegation — including athletes, musicians, cheerleaders, and high-level politicians — to the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea.

It’s unclear, of course, how many of these announcements will come to fruition. North Korea in particular has a history of promising positive steps toward good relations with South Korea only to back out of them later.

What is clear, though, is that what Kim promised Moonlight is much more significant than anything he’s promised thus far.

.


.

Denuclearization:

.

Rocket Man signed a pledge to permanently close the Tongchang-ri facility and both leaders also “agreed on a way to achieve denuclearization” on the Korean peninsula, according to President Moonlight.

Kim also expressed a readiness to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear facility – where the North is believed to have produced the material used in its nuclear tests – if the US took some reciprocal action (I’ll cover that in a bit).

But he went further on Tongchang-ri, saying the engine missile testing and launch facility would be permanently closed “in the presence of experts from relevant nations.” Tongchang-ri has been North Korea’s main satellite launch facility since 2012. It has also been used for testing engines for missiles capable of reaching the U.S.

As I’ve covered here recently, satellite imagery suggests Tongchang-ri is in the process of being destroyed. But satellite imagery – especially from North Korea – is notoriously unreliable, thus it’s a big deal to allow inspectors to verify the process.

.


.

What Kim Wants:

.

El Rocket Man wants PDT to sign a peace declaration — an agreement that says the Korean War is over and that America will never attack North Korea — before he makes any of the aforementioned nuclear concessions. This is far from a new demand, as PDT promised he’d do just that soon after their June summit in Singapore.

The Trump administration, however, insists that Kim must first cut his nuclear arsenal by 60 to 70% — or offer some other major concession — before the US will sign a peace declaration.

It appears that Kim has chosen the “some other major concession” option in the form of the deal he just struck with Moonlight, but the denuclearization aspect of that deal is contingent upon the prospective peace commitment from the U.S. He appears to be making the case that his improved relations with South Korea are good enough on their own to force the ball into our court. I don’t believe that’s going to cut it for the Trump administration at the end of the day.

.


.

BIG PICTURE:

.

So although Kim’s offer last night to tear down a missile engine testing site and nuclear facility with international inspectors sounds great — and it is great — the reality is that our recent progress has led to another impasse.

That seems to be the cycle — progress, impasse, progress, impasse, rinse cycle repeat. But that is to be expected. We’ve said from the beginning that this process will be arduous, tedious and at times infuriating. Kim Jong Un is a sunuvabich, plain and simple.

The good news is that he’s about to be a sunuvabich on a schedule.

Following the successful SK/NK meeting, Secretary of State Pompeo said he had invited Pyongyang officials to meet in Vienna, Austria, with Stephen Biegun, the State Department’s recently appointed North Korean envoy, “at the earliest opportunity.”

“This will mark the beginning of negotiations to transform U.S.-DPRK relations through the process of rapid denuclearization of North Korea, to be completed by January 2021, as committed by Chairman Kim, and to construct a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula,” Pompeo said, using an alternative acronym for North Korea.

This is what we’ve needed from the beginning; a concrete agreement whose progress can be documented and updated as time goes along. No more vague nonsense; it’s time to put up or shut up. Kim is doing and saying the right things (again), now we’ll see if he’s ready to put his money where his mouth is. If that 2021 deadline is realized, this will be perhaps the greatest foreign policy accomplishment since the fall of the USSR.

The fact is, things ARE moving forward. It will continue to be ugly, but we’re in a hell of a lot better place than when PDT took over.

And that’s a fact, Jack.

.

.

.

.


Donations

Hi everyone, if you enjoyed this article and feel that I’ve earned a tip, I would greatly appreciate any help you can give. If you would like to give more than $1, simply change the number in the box to multiply the donation. If not, I still love you and keep up the good fight!

$1.00

Categories Uncategorized

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close