US President Trump claims to be an imaginative deal-maker. We will soon see. His announcement this week that he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for direct talks is stunningly good news.
The next few weeks will be make-or-break for a historic peace settlement to the decades-old Korean conflict. Washington’s next moves and words are crucial.
Kim made the offer in a letter to Trump conveyed by a South Korean delegation to Washington DC. Trump has responded positively, and a possible meeting is to take place in May. That would be the first time a sitting American president has ever met a North Korean leader.
Trump must forgo the temptation for macho posturing, and summon the maturity to act responsibly in the interests of regional and indeed world peace.
Washington bears a heavy responsibility for the conflict that has racked the Korean Peninsula since the 1950-53 civil war, in which the US backed its South Korean ally against the Communist North.
It is futile for American leaders to point the finger at Pyongyang as a “rogue state” while denying Washington’s own baleful role in the legacy of conflict and insecurity.
The quickening pace of inter-Korean peace diplomacy is a much welcome change from the war rhetoric that was endangering world security only a few months ago. This week it was reported that the North and South Korean leaders are ready to meet next month in what would be the biggest dialogue event in more than a decade for the Peninsula.
Now President Trump has also agreed to talks with North Korea’s Kim.
North Korea’s reported willingness this week to freeze its nuclear weapons program is ground-breaking. It should be reciprocated by Washington moving, at long last, to sign an armistice to definitively end the 1950-53 Korean War.
North Korea – the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea – has long maintained, with sound reason, that its nuclear weapons program has been impelled by the existential fear of a US-led war being thrust on it.
Given the horrendous devastation inflicted on the people of North Korea during the 1950-53 war in which millions died from American aerial bombing campaigns, it is incumbent on Washington to commit to a full peace treaty to finally and formally end that war.
If, however, Washington insists on unilateral North Korean disarmament then the prospect for a peaceful settlement is doomed.
It is counterproductive to look back at past failed negotiations with recrimination about one side or the other reneging on obligations.
Surely, the imperative of the present hour is to seize the opportunity for peace by both sides making a mutual commitment to resolving grievances through solely peaceful means.
This is the diplomatic process which Russia and China have been urging all sides to embrace. North and South Korean leaders have stepped up to the plate and shown an admirable willingness to engage in earnest dialogue.
Since the beginning of this year, North and South Korean delegates have held several rounds of sincere talks to find a way forward for the security and peace of all the Korean people who share the one Peninsular homeland. The results have been promising and underscore the vital need for mutual engagement.
It is evident from the respective leaderships in Pyongyang and Seoul that the people of Korea, North and South, yearn for a peaceful coexistence.
What the Trump administration needs to do is listen to the wishes of the Korean people. Washington’s bellicose rhetoric towards North Korea must be somehow replaced with humility to genuinely resolve the Korean conflict – a conflict which Washington is a protagonist in.
These are far from unreasonable demands on Washington, as several former American diplomats and leaders such as President Jimmy Carter have recognized and endorsed.
Washington is insisting on imposing new punitive sanctions on Pyongyang, as well as carrying out forthcoming military exercises which have continually offended North Korea’s national pride and security.
Washington is acting like the master of the situation issuing ultimatums instead of pursing diplomacy.
There is a pragmatic way forward to achieve a peaceful resolution over Korea. Russia and China must prevail on the US to meet its international obligations of peaceful diplomacy.
Is Washington a law-abiding peaceful state, as it so often claims to be, or is it a rogue state that sees itself above the law and international moral consensus? A moment of truth is at hand.
Editorial, Strategic Culture Foundation
The 21st Century