The May 26 inter-Korean summit shows how the two Koreas might mend their erstwhile rivalry, combine their forces and become united on the international stage.
Of course, their newly found love may prove ephemeral considering their decades-old antagonistic relations that peaked with the 1950-1953 Korean War that was started by the North’s invasion under Kim Il-sung, grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un.
The following seven decades have been marked by a series of close calls that have pushed the 1953 armistice to its limits. So what has changed that could help the two Koreas overcome their history, if indeed that concept of reconciliation is truly possible?
Above all, the two Koreas are being unhinged from their Cold-War patrons _ South Korea from the United States and North Korea from China after the demise of the Soviet Union.
The collapse of the ideological pillars is forcing Seoul and Pyongyang to find their own way to survive. Before the PyeongChang Olympics, Seoul faced the real possibility of war that could come from a preemptive strike by its closest ally, the U.S., against the North for its development of nuclear-armed intercontinental missiles (ICBM). Seoul wants to stop being potential collateral damage.
The North has felt betrayed by China’s cooperation in strengthening international sanctions that are increasingly biting its isolated economy.
So respectively facing the existential threat from their historic benefactors, the two Koreas appear to be finding comfort in each other’s arms for now, their long lost sense of brotherhood awakened.
Here are some points to ponder regarding what happened in the lead-up to and after the summit, compiled from President Moon’s remarks at the May 27 news conference and reports about the minisummit.
North asks for the summit
President Moon said the North had asked for the summit first.
Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), met his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong-chul at the Panmunjeom truce village on May 25. The previous night, U.S. President Donald Trump canceled the June 12 summit by revealing an open letter to Kim. This panicked the North enough for it to call Seoul for help.
The North took only hours for Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye-gwan to say the Pyongyang wanted to hold the summit. Not long after the announcement, the South’s spy master received a summit proposal from his opposite number. Cheong Wa Dae said the proposal was made in the form of Kim Jong-un’s initiative and Moon accepted it.
“The summit was held as if it was part of a routine between close friends and that is what is meaningful about it,’ he told reporters.
Something amiss in Moon-Trump summit
According to Chosun Ilbo, the vernacular conservative newspaper, three NIS members led by deputy director Kim Sang-kyun, went to Pyongyang on May 23 when President Moon was on his way from his summit with Trump in Washington. Trump was inquisitive about the North’s apparent change of heart during their phone conversation and Moon decided to fly to Washington.
On May 16, the North cited the South-U.S. joint aerial exercise, Max Thunder, as the reason for cancelling the June 1 high-level talks and poured venom on the U.S. for trying to impose the fate of Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, to the North.
Gaddafi gave up his incipient nuclear program in a deal with the U.S. and Europe, but was killed by western-backed rebels.
Seoul suggested to the North that it should mediate between the North and the U.S.
All kept in dark about the summit
The secrecy on the summit was comparable to a spy movie. A small convoy carrying President Kim in a Mercedes used by the first lady sped to the truce village but without traffic control along the route in order not to draw unnecessary attention.
In video footage at the start of the meeting, the two acted sometimes as if they were a close uncle and nephew.
“We should have you in a better place … I am sorry not to treat you better,” Kim told Moon. “We will give a grand reception to you and your wife when you two visit Pyongyang in autumn.”
The North Korean leader addressed Moon and spoke to him in such a respectful way as a young person traditionally does to an old person. Moon also spoke politely and took an avuncular tone when he comforted Kim saying the summit at a short notice reflected a change for the better in the two Koreas’ relations.
Their tryst was kept a secret until Cheong Wa Dae made a Facebook posting about the meeting three hours after the summit.
Too close for comfort
President Moon told the news conference that the U.S. was informed of the result.
But Moon did not say whether the U.S. was notified in advance of the two Koreas’ plan to hold a summit. There were some reports that Cheong Wa Dae later confirmed that Washington got an advanced notice.
Then, would Moon tell the U.S. all that transpired during the summit? Even if he did, would the U.S. believe it? A seed of doubt perhaps.
Source – The Korea Times