Editorial

It took the threat of war to move towards peace on the Korean peninsula

Sunday, April 29, 2018

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Over the course of several editorials we have suggested to readers that the North Koreans and their leader President Kim Jong-un should not be dismissed as lunatics pursuing an irrational strategy.

We are convinced that the North Koreans harbour a genuine fear that the United States could attack them with nuclear weapons, based on the memoirs of the Korean War.

It is a historical fact that the US dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan after the surprise military strike by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii on December 7, 1941 — the event which ostensibly dragged the US into World War II.

The North Korean strategy has been to indicate that they are prepared to complete or perfect the development of nuclear weapons. Their various firings of rockets was to give the threat credibility and to stoke the fears of the Japanese to, in turn, put fear into the US on whom they rely for a nuclear shield.

In 1953 the contestants agreed to a truce ending the Korean War. Since then, there have been regular skirmishes at the 38th Parallel and in the adjacent coastal waters. In 2003, North Korea withdrew from the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

In the last year there has been an escalation of disparaging rhetoric and threats between President Kim and US President Donald Trump. While China helped to calm North Korea, the unpredictable nature of Mr Trump made his expressed willingness to use nuclear weapons a real possibility. This was not lost on North Korea.

Calmer approaches have emerged in March 2018 after China exercised influence on the leadership in North Korea. The leaders of the two Koreas met at the truce village of Panmunjeom in the past week.

Two decisions emerged from their discussions. First, South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea's President Kim signed the 'Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula', committing to an end to the Korean War (1950-53) and to maintain peace.

Second, there appears to be preparatory discussions to the mooted meeting between presidents Trump and Kim, or a meeting involving both Koreas, China, and the United States.

The move towards peace on the Korean peninsula shows that diplomacy is always possible, but sometimes a palpable threat of use of force is necessary to galvanise the parties to resort to diplomacy.

We welcome the new rapprochement and recognise that it is two countries, but one nation, which also recalls the unification of East and West Germany and North and South Vietnam. All is possible when people talk to each other in an atmosphere of calm and with a genuine commitment to peace and economic development.

As a small, vulnerable nation highly dependent on clean seas and unpolluted air in the beautiful Caribbean, Jamaica has a vested interest in peace and has consistently made this clear over many years in the corridors of the United Nations.

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