Inner-Korean talks resumed in Panmunjom on Saturday amidst a brawl over recent North Korean missile tests, artillery duels and a joint US-South Korean air-force attempt to brandish military might as motivator for the talks.
Kim Kwan-jin, the national security adviser to President Park Geun-hye and Unification Minister Hong Jong-pyo are participating in the talks, representing Seoul. Participating as representatives of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) a.k.a North Korea are Hwang Pyong So, a political director of the DPRK’s army; and Kim Yang Gon, who has a reputation for being a well-experienced negotiator within the inner-Korean discourse.
The first round of talks, lasting over 10 hours, began Saturday afternoon. Following the first round of talks a spokesperson for Seoul told the press that the parties:
“Voiced their positions and exchanged a wide spectrum of opinions on ways to settle the current crisis, as well as on future relations between the countries”.
38th Parallel Diplomacy 101
The atmosphere between the two governments of the divided country is tense and both sides sharpened their rhetoric, their propaganda as well as their military posture.
Already provoked by balloons to distribute propaganda leaflets and the joint US-South Korean special forces attempt to establish an armed opposition within the DPRK, Pyongyang expressed its deep resentment about recent propaganda, broadcast to North Korean troops stationed along the border via large loudspeaker systems.
Pyongyang described these broadcasts as yet another announcement of war; A rhetorical way to stress that these measures don’t afford a de-escalation and are disrupting attempts to reach a peaceful re-unification of the country.
The administration of Park Geun-hye, for its part, is confronted with the dilemma that ending the propaganda broadcasts would make the President and Seoul “loose face”, as the broadcasts were launched after two South Korean officers were injured by North Korean mines.
To do everything not to lose face is deeply entrenched in the Korean and many other Asian cultures, so talks would have to focus on how both sides can get out of the dilemma, able to declare “victory”.
On Thursday inner-Korean relations soured after an exchange of artillery fire between North and South Korean forces in the western sector of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). Both sides accused one another of having started the barrage.
No independently verifiable data are available. Pyongyang responded by reiterating its demands that Seoul should end its propaganda broadcasts.
The incident shows, for one, that tensions are dangerously high.
For the other, that both sides’ military forces are under stress, increasing the risk that local commanders on either side could feel sufficiently threatened or provoked to launch artillery strikes without direct orders from either Seoul or Pyongyang;
And for the third, that the incident happened no more than two days before the scheduled resumption of inner-Korean talks in the DMZ village of Panmunjom, leading to speculations that “someone” would like to disrupt attempts to de-escalate tensions in Korea.
Brandishing simulated Air Raids against the DPRK not helpful for creating an Atmosphere conducive of constructive Talks.
On Saturday, the first day of the talks, the South Korean and US Air Force have flown eight combat sorties, simulating attacks against targets within the DPRK.
Four US’ F-16s and four South Korean F-15 fighters participated in these sorties. A spokesperson for the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff stated that the sorties had been flown to: Show off the military might of South Korea and the US combined air force power”. It is noteworthy that the USA still has the supreme command over the South Korean military in wartime.
US – South Korean subversion and attempts to build an Armed Resistance in the DPRK.
Another problem with de-escalating the situation in the Korean peninsula to such a degree that both parties can begin to focus on much-needed talks about normalizing relations and about bringing the economies of the North and the South on par so that a peaceful and dignified “Korean” solution can even be considered, is the fact that the USA (and Seoul) are admittedly preparing the subversion of the government in Pyongyang by creating a resistance movement within the DPRK.
Aftershocks of Yalta.
Korea is, tragically, still suffering from the aftershocks of Yalta where the G-4 carved the world up into hegemonic zones. The end of the so-called cold war has not changed that situation. One of the seldom-discussed problems with de-escalating the Korean discourse to such a degree that realistic talks about a reunification would become possible is that the USA, Russia and China, each for their particular reasons, do theirs to maintain tensions between Seoul and Pyongyang.
To mention but one example?
The fact that illegal US sanctions against the DPRK in 2013 stalled the economic development of the DPRK and that both Moscow and Beijing had their – not exactly altruistic – reasons not to veto them.
Dr. Christof Lehmann is the founder and editor of nsnbc. He is a psychologist and independent political consultant on conflict and conflict resolution and a wide range of other political issues. His work with traumatized victims of conflict has led him to also pursue the work as political consultant. He is a lifelong activist for peace and justice, human rights, Palestinians rights to self-determination in Palestine, and he is working on the establishment of international institutions for the prosecution of all war crimes, also those committed by privileged nations. On 28 August 2011 he started his blog nsnbc, appalled by misrepresentations of the aggression against Libya and Syria. In March 2013 he turned nsnbc into a daily, independent, international on-line newspaper. He can be contacted at nsnbc international at firstname.lastname@example.org