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Stu Smallwood

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US Maximalist Stance on Denuclearization Holds Korean Peace Process Hostage


For the first time since the Singapore summit, a shadow of doubt has been cast over the Korean peace process. Its source is the United States’ unyielding demand for complete North Korean nuclear disarmament before ending the Korean War and prior to allowing the sanctions exemptions needed for carrying out North-South peace initiatives.

The US’ unwillingness to take a more conciliatory approach on these two issues stems from the misguided conviction among senior Trump administration officials that maximum pressure was the key to bringing Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table in the first place. These officials believe declaring the end of the war would eliminate the leverage of a military option, while sanctions exemptions would weaken the economic pressure put on North Korea, creating an environment in which their nuclear weapons arsenal is tacitly accepted.

On the contrary, the administration’s reversion to a hardline approach has exhausted the momentum provided by the Singapore summit, and their reluctance to declare an end to the war as a confidence-building measure threatens to stall the peace process completely.

More than ever, the burden rests on the shoulders of South Korean President Moon Jae-in to drive negotiations forward by pushing back against Washington’s uncompromising position. However, given the intractable nature of the current impasse, if Moon fails to convince the Trump administration to soften its stance, his government will eventually be forced to make an existential decision about South Korea’s future role in Northeast Asia.
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For Lasting Peace, President Moon Must Lead South Korea Out of America’s Orbit


It didn’t take much for the leaders of the two Koreas to put an end to the decades-long culture of crisis pervading the Korean Peninsula. With a phone call, a quick drive to the North Korean side of the Demilitarized Zone, and a public embrace, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un emphasized the absurdity of the barrier wedged between a people with a common history, culture and language.

It was the United States’ aversion to diplomacy that encouraged Moon and Kim into one another’s arms on May 26th, and it may ultimately have been the impetus needed for South Korea to take the lead in ensuring this peace process — a top priority of the current administration — is a success.

Moon’s agreement to meet with Kim so soon after Trump unilaterally called off the Singapore summit was nothing short of an act of defiance against the US administration, something no South Korean president before him would have had the domestic backing to do.

With images of their embrace broadcast around the world, North Korea’s genuine interest in diplomacy became undeniable and the onus was immediately put on the United States to reopen the summit. Failure to do so would throw into stark relief what few politicians, media members or regular South Korean people have been willing to acknowledge — that the United States has been the most to blame for antipathy between the two Koreas since the Korean War.
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