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Images of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, centre, and US President Donald Trump ahown on TV at the Seoul Railway Station in Seoul, South Korea. (Ahn Young-joon, AP, File)
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Watching the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Kim Jong-un, step over the 38th parallel last week – the first time a North Korean leader has done so since 1953 – was an historic occasion to say the least (watch the moment here).
To welcome him onto the South Korean side of the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in Panmunjom, was South Korean President, Moon Jae-in. There, they shook hands in a sign of unity that none would have thought possible in 2017.
The occasion was surreal, especially considering that just nine months ago North Korea tested a 120-kiloton thermonuclear weapon, and six months ago, tested its new Hwasong-15 intercontinental ballistic missile with a range-capability of up to 13 000km.
The landmark 2018 inter-Korean summit, which led to an agreement to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula and formally end the Korean War, has set the stage for an equally momentous meeting between Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump.
The highly anticipated '2018 North Korea-United States summit' is scheduled to take place in late May, possibly on the North Korean side of the DMZ. It would be the first of its kind between the leaders of these two nations that fought a terrible war in the 1950s and have been unyielding adversaries ever since.
Tensions escalated to boiling point in 2017, when Kim and Trump exchanged a litany of threats and personal insults with respect to North Korea's rapidly advancing nuclear weapons programme and ballistic missile tests.
North Korean diplomatic turnaround
But 2018 marked the beginning of an extraordinary de-escalation trend initiated by none other than Kim Jong-un himself. During his New Year's Day address, he expressed his desire for diplomacy and suggested that North Korea participate alongside South Korea in the 2018 Winter Olympics Games.
In Kim's own words, "When it comes to North-South relations, we should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment … North Korea's participation in the Winter Games will be a good opportunity to show unity of the people and we wish the Games will be a success".
This gesture of goodwill was embraced by the astutely progressive South Korean President Moon Jae-in and, six weeks later, the North and South Korean Olympic delegations walked out together under a unified Korea flag at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Following this symbolic breakthrough, diplomacy gathered pace leading to the 2018 inter-Korean Summit and the arrangement of the 2018 North Korea-United States summit.
While mainstream media stumbles along dazed in the headlights of this roller-coaster diplomacy, no-one has bothered to draw up viable scenarios of what Kim Jong-un is planning for the summit.
News agencies have been so busy showering Trump with praise for 'getting' Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table, that they've lost all perspective on what might actually unfold at the summit. And Trump, himself, is so absorbed in unwarranted self-congratulation for North Korea's potential commitment to 'denuclearisation', that he's lost all touch with reality.
At this stage, general consensus is that the meeting will be a one-way deal without any scope for compromise on the part of the United States. As such, Trump will 'encourage' Kim to voluntarily denuclearise North Korea – to a further extent than Iran – in exchange for broad-spectrum sanctions relief.
While many view this scenario as plausible, one must question whether Kim would willingly accept unconditional denuclearisation for sanctions relief only.
Some commentators have suggested that Kim might push for the indefinite cessation of joint military exercises between South Korea, Japan and the United States, in exchange for North Korea's denuclearisation.
Others have dared go one step further, speculating that Kim may even try his luck and demand the phased withdrawal of all US military troops and assets from South Korea in exchange for its denuclearisation.
Conspicuously absent in the media, however, is the scenario where Kim demands mutual nuclear disarmament, not only of the Korean peninsula, but also of the other eight nuclear nations currently legitimised by the increasingly outdated and discriminatory Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In all fairness, would it be totally unreasonable for Kim to inform Trump that he is 100% willing to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (or Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty) … if the United States agrees to do the same?
Experts shouldn't ignore this scenario, especially in light of North Korea's six-point policy amendment list announced via North Korea's state news agency. The list confirms that North Korea:
1. has achieved 'nuclear weaponisation' and realised its nuclear objectives;
2. will 'discard' its nuclear test site located in the north and no longer conduct nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile tests;
4. will never use nuclear weapons unless there is a nuclear threat or nuclear provocation to our country, nor transfer nuclear weapons and technology to any other nation;
5. will commit to 'dramatically raise people's lives' through the development of a 'strong socialist economy'; and
6. will 'intensify close ties and dialogue' with neighbouring countries and the international community to promote peace on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.
The point which relates to 'global nuclear disarmament' is the one that experts should be most intrigued by. If Kim is serious about global nuclear disarmament, then they shouldn't casually dismiss the likelihood that this specific point will be raised at the summit with Trump.
In support of the Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty are the 122 nations that voted in favour of the United Nations resolution on July 7, 2017. Subsequent to the treaty's adoption, 58 nations have signed it.
Most interestingly, North Korea was the only country possessing nuclear weapons that voted in favour of this resolution back in October 2016. This often-overlooked fact further substantiates the notion that North Korea is serious about denuclearisation … but, as Trump will soon discover, only in the case of mutual denuclearisation.
In a strange twist of fate, Kim Jong-un could establish himself as the world's champion for global nuclear disarmament. That would set his name, nation and legacy in stone for time immemorial.
The only question is now … will Trump view Kim's proposal to rid the world of nuclear weapons once and for all as a deal he can't refuse? Let's hope his TV ratings and the fanfare around a probable Nobel Peace Prize will encourage him to do just that.
From maniac to maestro: how Trump could save the world from nuclear war
Below are three 'relatively unreported', yet noteworthy statements made in the latter half of 2017 – and you're not going to believe who made them:
1. "So, I'd like to de-nuke the world. I would like Russia and the United States, China and Pakistan, and many other countries that have nuclear weapons, (to) get rid of them" – US President Donald Trump on August 10, 2017;
2. "The DPRK (North Korea) consistently supports the total elimination of nuclear weapons and the efforts for denuclearization of the entire world" – North Korea's deputy UN ambassador, Kim In Ryong on October 16, 2017; and
3. "If you ask me whether nuclear disarmament is possible or not, I would say, yes, it is possible. Does Russia want universal nuclear disarmament or not? The answer is also yes – yes, Russia wants that and will work for it." – Russian President Vladimir Putin on October 19, 2017.
- Robert J. Traydon is a BSc graduate of Engineering and the author of 'Wake-up Call: 2035'. He's travelled to over 40 countries across six continents and worked in various business spheres. As a contrarian thinker, his articles explore a wide range of current affairs from a unique perspective.
Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.
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