Wed, May 16, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Lessons from the Korean summit

By John Lim 林泉忠

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27 attracted global attention as they shook hands at the start of a historic summit in the Demilitarized Zone on the 38th parallel.

The Moon-Kim summit was significant because it was the first time that a North Korean leader crossed the border to South Korea since the division of the Korean Peninsula more than 70 years ago.

It was also significant because Moon and Kim issued a joint statement signed in Panmunjom, declaring that they would aim for a peace agreement next year to replace the Korean War Armistice Agreement, thus formally ending the state of war that has existed since the Korean War broke out in 1950.

An exchange of visits between national leaders and a decision to end a state of war are dreams that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait have been unable to realize to this day.

What inspiration can the two sides of the Strait draw from the two Koreas’ summit, and why can they not achieve what the two Koreas are achieving on the Korean Peninsula?

The difference between the Strait divide and the two Koreas is that South and North Korea identify as one people and hope that the two will be united someday, even though they are ruled by separate governments, but after Taiwan underwent its democratization and localization process in the 1990s, mainstream opinion in Taiwan no longer takes unification into consideration.

Looking even closer, China often points its finger at pro-independence forces as troublemakers and at the US for supporting Taiwan independence.

Furthermore, as Beijing sees it, based on the mutual acknowledgment of the “1992 consensus” during the administration of former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the societies on the two sides of the Strait engaged in mutual exchanges, which is something that the two Koreas fail to achieve. There was even the historic summit between Ma and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in November 2015.

Today, leaders of the two sides do not meet, and the cross-strait negotiation process between the Straits Exchange Foundation and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits has also stopped.

In Beijing’s eyes, the deadlock is caused by the election of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) in 2016 and her administration’s refusal to recognize the “1992 consensus,” and also by its push for the cultural independence of Taiwan.

As Beijing sees it, the responsibility lies with Taiwan, which is the one that has been hurting cross-strait relations. This is also the “Beijing understanding” that I discovered after recently visiting some of China’s Taiwan-related agencies and research institutions in Beijing.

As for Taiwan’s response to the Korean summit, Tsai said that as long as there is no political precondition and based on the “principle of reciprocity,” she believes that no president of Taiwan would turn down a meeting with the leader from the other side of the Strait, and that Taiwanese would be glad to see it happen.

This statement is multilayered.

First, Taiwan welcomes a meeting between the leaders of the two sides.

Second, there should be no political preconditions for such a meeting, meaning that the two leaders are unable to meet now because of Beijing’s precondition that Taipei recognize the “1992 consensus.”

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