So much seems to be happening so fast on peace in the Korean Peninsula: from a quick train journey to Beijing late last month to announcement of a summit with Donald Trump, suspension of further nuclear tests and this meeting with his South Korean counterpart today. It is like time and space have conspired to mock humanity again. Late last year, it was as if a war between North Korea and the United States would happen somehow. The brinkmanship on both sides could transform rhetoric to actual war. Only the categorical statements of some US military commanders suggested that it would not come to that but there was nothing to say something nasty could not happen.
And ‘suddenly’, it is all about peace, witnessing a flurry of activities that must be confusing to even the most sophisticated international relations scholar. What might be the most decisive factor that accounts for this turn? Was there any guarantee that the brinkmanship could not have gone off track?
Beyond international relations scholars, East Asian regional security minders, the IFIs, investors, military strategists, peace movement activists, experts in negotiation, students of power must all be following. It is not over yet but it promises a very definitive moment in history indeed. Why? Because all the great powers are involved and it must be one of the most complicated negotiations in recent history.
The United States and China remain the great powers in the international politics of Asia. But Russia is nearby just as the European Union is an interested party. No less is India keenly watching as much as Japan for which so much is at stake in a nuclear armed or hostile North Korea. The ‘Liberal World Order’ is not going to stand watching unfazed just as certain international personalities and institutions are involved.
History, culture, norms and religions are clashing and reconciling at the same time in a drama featuring differing personality types, economic systems, political practices and national security arrangements.
They were four of such conflicts in recent history: Apartheid, Iran Nuclear programme, India-Pakistan border claims, (Kashmir), the Korean Peninsula and Arab-Israeli conflict. Apartheid is gone, through negotiation. Iran Nuclear crisis was almost dealt with, also through negotiation although no one knows now where it is as Trump sings a new song. The Korean Peninsula is about to be dealt with, again through negotiation. India-Pakistan and Arab-Israeli conflict remain the hard nuts on the agenda if Korea conflict goes. The triumph of negotiation or what?