Wed, May 02, 2018 - Page 8 News List

The Korean summit has not resolved anything

By HoonTing 雲程

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last week held a summit on the North-South border and announced the Panmunjom Declaration.

Although the declaration covers issues such as ending the Korean War, unification and scrapping nuclear weapons, it does not contain much political content, so when the show is over, things will probably continue much as before.

On the issue of ending the war, the two sides declared that they would “completely cease all hostile acts ... that are the source of military tension and conflict.”

Specifically, they said they would “take various military measures to ensure active mutual cooperation” and “hold frequent meetings between military authorities, including the defense ministers meeting.”

Although they pledged to “declare an end to the war ... and establish a peace regime” this year, they also recognized the need to “actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the US, or quadrilateral meetings” with the addition of China.

This shows that formally ending the war is not something that the two sides can achieve between them.

With respect to unification, the declaration says: “South and North Korea affirmed the principle of determining the destiny of the Korean nation on their own accord.”

The wording is hardly different from the 2007 Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity, which says: “The South and the North have agreed to resolve the issue of unification on their own initiative.”

Although the declaration proposes to “establish a joint liaison office with resident representatives ... in the Gaeseong region,” there is nothing about establishing representative offices, which would be a move toward mutual recognition.

It also says nothing about, for example, what should be done about reparations for the Pacific War and Korean War, or who should pay them.

In comparison, the North-South Joint Declaration that then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and then-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung signed following their summit in 2000 was more concrete, since it talked about the political structure that would follow unification, with the South suggesting forming a “confederation,” while the North proposed a “loose form of confederation.”

The latest declaration talks even less about the pressing issue of nuclear weapons.

On April 21, the North said it would cease atomic bomb tests, demolish its nuclear weapons test facilities and halt missile tests.

On Jan. 20, 1992, representatives of North and South Korea signed the Joint Declaration on the Denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, in which they promised not to “test, manufacture, produce, receive, possess, store, deploy or use nuclear weapons,” to “establish ... a South-North Joint Nuclear Control Commision.”

In comparison, the Panmunjom Declaration is clearly a step backward.

The proposed “complete denuclearization” merely relies on the two sides “carry[ing] out their respective roles and responsibilities” — empty words that leave room for reneging.

In the 1990s, North Korea started working to develop nuclear weapons and delivery systems.

When Kim Jong-un came to power in 2012, he sped up research and development. It was only after creating a new “status quo” that he sought to gain a reputation for making concessions.

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