2018–19 Korean peace process
The 2018–19 Korean peace process was initiated in order to resolve the long-term Korean conflict and denuclearize the Korean peninsula. A series of summits were held between North Korea's Kim Jong-un, South Korea's Moon Jae-in, and Donald Trump of the United States. In parallel to this, a number of cultural exchanges began.
|Date||since January 2018|
|Organized by|| Chairman Kim Jong-un|
President Moon Jae-in
President Donald Trump
President Xi Jinping
President Vladimir Putin
|Participants|| North Korea|
In 1945, at the end of World War II, Korea was divided. In 1950, war broke out between North and South Korea. The United States intervened to defend the South and has continued a military presence to the present day. A cease fire ended the fighting in 1953, but no official peace treaty has been signed. Frequent clashes have occurred between both sides to this day.
At the end of the Cold War, North Korea lost its supporters in the Soviet Bloc. In December 1991 North and South Korea made an accord, the Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-Aggression, Exchange and Cooperation, pledging non-aggression and cultural and economic exchanges. They also agreed to prior notification of major military movements and established a military hotline, and to work on replacing the armistice with a "peace regime".
In 1994, concern over North Korea's nuclear program led to the Agreed Framework between the US and North Korea. In 1998, South Korean President Kim Dae-jung announced a Sunshine Policy towards North Korea. An Inter-Korean summit was held in 2000. Continuing concerns about North Korea's development of nuclear missiles led in 2003 to the six-party talks that included North Korea, South Korea, the US, Russia, China, and Japan. In 2006, however, North Korea resumed testing missiles and on October 9 conducted its first nuclear test. A second inter-Korean summit was held in 2007. By 2017, estimates of North Korea's nuclear arsenal ranged between 15 and 60 bombs, probably including hydrogen bombs. In the opinion of analysts, the Hwasong-15 missile is capable of striking anywhere in the United States.
Thaw at the Winter GamesEdit
In May 2017 Moon Jae-in was elected President of South Korea with a promise to return to the Sunshine Policy. In his New Year address for 2018, North Korean leader, Chairman of the Workers' Party of Korea Kim Jong-un proposed sending a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea. The Seoul–Pyongyang hotline was reopened after almost two years. At the Winter Olympics, North and South Korea marched together in the opening ceremony and fielded a united women's ice hockey team. As well as the athletes, North Korea sent an unprecedented high-level delegation, headed by Kim Yo-jong, sister of Kim Jong-un, and President Kim Yong-nam, and including performers like the Samjiyon Orchestra. The delegation passed on an invitation to President Moon to visit North Korea. Together a performance North Korea Orchestra's performance at the Olympics also marked the first time since 2006 that any North Korean artist performed in South Korea. A North Korean art troupe also performed in two separate South Korean cities, including Seoul, in honor of the Olympic games as well. The North Korean ship which carried the art troupe, Man Gyong Bong 92, was also the first North Korean ship to arrive in South Korea since 2002.
Following the Olympics, authorities of the two countries raised the possibility that they could host the 2021 Asian Winter Games together. On 1 April, South Korean K-pop stars performed a concert in Pyongyang titled "Spring is Coming", which was attended by Kim Jong-un and his wife. Meanwhile, propaganda broadcasts stopped on both sides. The K-pop stars were part of a 160-member South Korean art troupe which performed in North Korea in early April 2018. It also marked the first time since 2005 that any South Korean artist performed in North Korea.
April 2018 inter-Korean summitEdit
On 27 April, a summit took place between Moon and Kim in the South Korean zone of the Joint Security Area. It was the first time since the Korean War that a North Korean leader had entered South Korean territory. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and South Korea's President Moon Jae-in met at the line that divides Korea. The summit ended with both countries pledging to work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. They also vowed to declare an official end to the Korean War within a year. As part of the Panmunjom Declaration which was signed by leaders of both countries, both sides also called for the end of longstanding military activities in the region of the Korean border and a reunification of Korea. In 2018, a majority of South Koreans approved the new relationship. Also, the leaders agreed to work together to connect and modernise their railways.
May 2018 inter-Korean summitEdit
Moon and Kim met on May 26 to discuss Kim's upcoming summit with Trump. The summit led to further meetings between North and South Korean officials during June. On June 1, officials from both countries agreed to move forward with the military and Red Cross talks. They also agreed to reopen a jointly operated liaison office in Kaesong that the South had shut down in February 2016 after a North Korean nuclear test. The second meeting, involving the Red Cross and military, was held on June 22 at North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort, where it was agreed that family reunions would resume.
2018 North Korea–United States Singapore SummitEdit
Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un on June 12, 2018, in Singapore, in the first summit meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. They signed a joint statement, agreeing to security guarantees for North Korea, new peaceful relations, reaffirmation of the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, recovery of soldiers' remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials. Immediately following the summit, Trump announced that the US would discontinue "provocative" joint military exercises with South Korea, and he wishes to bring the U.S. forces back home at some point, but he said that was not part of the Singapore agreement.
Aftermath of Singapore summitEdit
Pompeo's subsequent visits to North KoreaEdit
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On July 6–7, Pompeo travelled to North Korea for the third time to continue the negotiations with General Kim Yong-chol, Kim's right-hand man. After the meeting, Pompeo stated that the talks had been productive and that progress had been made "on almost all of the central issues". However, the North Korean state media criticized the meeting soon after, saying the U.S. had shown a "gangster-like attitude" and calling the demands of the Trump administration "deeply regrettable". Pompeo delivered a letter from Kim to Trump, in which the latter expressed his hope for successful implementation of the US-North Korea Joint Statement and reaffirmed his will for improving the relations between the countries.
Pompeo announced on August 23, 2018, that he would return to North Korea the following week for the fourth round of talks. The following day, Trump tweeted that he had asked Pompeo not to make the trip because he felt "we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula". Concerning the cancellation of Pompeo’s planned North Korea trip, Vox summarized the background based on the reports by the Washington Post and CNN that North Korea delivered an irate letter to Pompeo and the letter was shown to Trump in the Oval Office on Friday, and Trump tweeted the cancellation of Pompeo's trip. The message from DPRK was North Korea's evident disappointment as Washington had shown no real eagerness to sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War. South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha urged continued U.S.-DPRK talks despite Trump's cancellation of Pompeo's trip. Kang spoke to Pompeo by telephone on August 25, and expressed concern over the cancellation of the trip while calling for continued discussions on peace and resolution of North Korea’s nuclear program. Kang also stated “it is more imperative to concentrate diplomatic efforts on the faithful fulfilling of what has been agreed in the 2018 Trump-Kim and the inter-Korean summit while sustaining the energy for talks on the long-term standpoint”. Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono revealed appreciation for Pompeo’s “prompt communication” with South Korea, and said Japan would be pleased to cooperate with the U.S. for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Return of remains of US soldiersEdit
On July 27 North Korea handed over 55 boxes of human remains, thus starting to fulfill their pledge in the Singapore declaration. The remains were saluted in a ceremony in their honor by US soldiers. More than 36,000 American troops died during the Korean War, but some 7,700 remains unaccounted for, including 5,300 believed to have died in North Korea. 220 remains were recovered during the years 1996-2005. North Korea reported to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency that they couldn't be sure how many individuals were represented in each of the 55 boxes. After the failure of the Hanoi Summit, the US suspended the program. As of May 2019, six US servicemen had been identified from the remains.
Destruction of missile test siteEdit
On July 24, it was reported that North Korea had begun to dismantle a rocket launching and testing site near Tonchang, an action which Kim had pledged to Trump. South Korean President Moon called the move "a good sign for North Korea’s denuclearization". The North Korea monitoring specialist group 38 North found that the Sohae Station, a satellite-launch site in North Korea, was being demolished. Satellite imagery shows that several significant structures were destroyed: a missile-launching stand and a building near a launchpad for satellites. 38 North suggested that it is an essential beginning step towards achieving a commitment made by Kim Jong Un at the June 12 Singapore Summit. On August 7, there was more progress on dismantling facilities at the Sohae Satellite and Missile Launching Station; it entails the demolition of the test stand’s concrete foundations, launch pad’s gantry tower and pad foundation. While the previous dismantlement of the vertical engine test stand, on July 23, represents a fulfillment of Chairman Kim’s arrangement with President Trump conducted publicly during the post-Singapore Summit press conference, activity at the launch pad and concrete foundation appear to exceed that pledge. These activities, however, must be viewed cautiously as “principal steps” since neither is presently permanent or irreversible. Concerning 38 North's scrutiny, it would characterize more durable and irreversible actions as there is no identified facility with equivalent capabilities elsewhere in the DPRK.
Negotiation process between US and DPRKEdit
South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha has said that she had "considerable" consultations over the issue of the declaration to a formal end of the 1950-53 Korean war with the Chinese and U.S. foreign ministers. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said "everyone can announce a declaration ending the war if they do not want the war to happen again". North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho said he was “alarmed” by U.S. insistence on maintaining sanctions until North Korea denuclearizes and what he said was U.S. reluctance to declare a formal end to the Korean War. United States Forces in Korea maintains several nuclear bomber fighters and DPRK is demanding USA safety guarantee for giving up nuclear weapon programs of Pyongyang.
On August 29, The Atlantic reported on an interview with Moon Chung In, a South Korean special envoy. His understanding is that the diplomatic team of Mike Pompeo is having difficulties discussing with the defense team National Security Adviser John Bolton. This divided stance between the US diplomatic team and the US defense team may have played a significant role in the delay of the signing of the promised peace declaration. The Hill reported on the U.S. president's verbal agreement with DPRK to end the Korean War on both the June 1 meeting at the White House, and during the summit held in Singapore. However, soon after the summit meeting, the U.S. demanded denuclearization from North Korea before signing on the Peace Declaration document.
North Korean reactionEdit
The North Korea monitoring group 38 North states that, in the past five years, the DPRK has moved from an "all for the military" approach to an "all for the economy" approach. It states that this fits into this wider picture that Kim's widely publicized "on-the-spot guidances" in July 2018 were exclusively economy-related and that North Korean state media reporting about these inspections generated enormous attention in the West because of Kim's repeated and open criticisms of sloppiness and bad economic performance on the part of the officials involved. Kim also explains his focus by conducting "on-the-spot guidance” tours of the several farms, factories and construction sites.
South Korea announced on 23 June 2018 that it would not conduct annual military exercises with the US in September, and would also stop its own drills in the Yellow Sea, in order to not provoke North Korea and to continue a peaceful dialog. On July 1, 2018, South and North Korea resumed ship-to-ship radio communication, which could prevent accidental clashes between South and North Korean military vessels around the Northern Limit Line (NLL) in the West (Yellow) Sea. On 17 July 2018, South and North Korea fully restored their military communication line on the western part of the peninsula.
South Korea and North Korea competed as "Korea" in some events at the 2018 Asian Games. The co-operation extended to the film industry, with South Korea giving their approval to screen North Korean movies at the country's local festival while inviting several moviemakers from the latter. In August 2018 reunions of families divided since the Korean War took place at Mount Kumgang in North Korea.
South Korea’s defense ministry announced that North and South Korea initially agreed on the plans to reduce guard posts and equipment along the DMZ on its border with DPRK. The announcement came after that Pyongyang has begun dismantling critical facilities at a satellite launching station in the accomplishment of a pledge by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the Singapore summit with President Trump. U.S. General Vincent Brooks responded, "I have some concerns about what that means militarily for the ability to defend along the Military Demarcation Line". However, he assessed the risk as being to "a reasonable degree" and said that the move represents an outstanding opportunity to reduce tensions on the DMZ.
Third inter-Korean summit in 2018Edit
On 13 August, the South Korea Blue House announced that President Moon would attend the third inter-Korean summit with Kim Jong-un at Pyongyang in September. In Pyongyang, both leaders signed an agreement titled the "Pyongyang Joint Declaration of September 2018". The agreement called for the removal of landmines planted at the Joint Security Area at North-South border. The DPRK agreed to dismantle its nuclear program in the presence of international experts if the U.S. takes correlative action. Moon became the first South Korean leader to give a speech to the North Korean public when he addressed 150,000 spectators at the Arirang Festival on 19 September.
On September 5, during the meeting with South Korean special envoy Chung Eun-yong about the third Inter Korean summit, Kim Jong-un declared that he wants to accomplish the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula before the US leader Donald Trump completes his first term, which is January 2021.
North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit, 2019Edit
Donald Trump met with Kim Jong-un on February 27–28, 2019, in Hanoi, Vietnam, in the second summit meeting between the leaders of the United States and North Korea. On February 28, 2019, the White House announced that the summit was cut short and that no agreement was reached, with Trump later elaborating that it was because North Korea wanted an end to all sanctions. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho asserted that the country only sought a partial lifting of five United Nations sanctions placed on North Korea during 2016–17.
North Korean–United States exchange of lettersEdit
On June 12, 2019, Trump received a letter from Kim Jong-un which he described as "beautiful". On June 26, 2019, it was announced that talks were underway to hold a third U.S.–North Korean summit. Trump previously tweeted in April 2019 that a third summit "would be good". On June 22, 2019, an undated photo was also released by the North Korean government of Kim Jong-un reading a letter from Trump. Kim described the letter as "excellent" and described Trump as the "supreme leader" of the United States. However, Kim later denied reports of continued talks with the United States, and relations with the U.S. State Department still remained hostile.
Impromptu North Korea–United States DMZ meeting, 2019Edit
On June 30, 2019, Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in met with Kim Jong-un at the DMZ. The meeting was reportedly the result of an impromptu Trump tweet suggesting a possible meeting with Kim at the DMZ "just to shake his hand and say Hello(?)!". The impromptu meeting has been reported as historic as it was the first time a sitting U.S. president has set foot in North Korea; former US Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton had previously visited North Korea after they left office. Before crossing into North Korea, Trump and Kim, who stated in English "its good to see you again", "I never expected to meet you at this place" and "you are the first US President to cross the border," met and shook hands. Both men then briefly crossed the larger border line before crossing into South Korea.
After meeting at the border, Trump, Kim and Moon Jae-in entered the Inter-Korean House of Freedom for approximately one hour. A result of the brief meeting was that both U.S. and North Korea agreed to set up teams to resume denuclearization talks, which had previously stalled at the Hanoi Summit earlier in the year.
Deterioration of relationsEdit
During 2019, North Korea conducted a series of short–range missile tests, while the US and South Korea took part in joint military drills in August. On 16 August 2019, North Korea's ruling party made a statement criticizing the South for participating in the drills and for buying US military hardware. The statement said that talks with President Moon were over.
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