North Korea and South Korea will meet next Tuesday for the first time since December 2015. This all comes after the announcement made on January 1st by Pyongyang about its desires to reduce the conflicts between those two nations.
2017 was a year of increasing tensions in the Korean peninsula as North Korea advanced on its missile program, something utterly rejected by the Republic of Korea and the United States. However, 2018 might bring something different as both nations are willing to hold talks and discuss DPRK’s assistance to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.
The meeting will be held by representatives of both nations at Peace House in the Joint Security Area.
“The talks will focus on North Korea’s participation in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and our preparations have centered around some requests made by the North for a peaceful Olympic Games,” said Unification Ministry spokesman Baek Tae-hyun during a media conference on Monday.
2018 might bring something different to the relations between North and South Korea
The situation between North and South Korea is not an easy one. Both states have taken different paths since their creation in almost every single aspect. Technically, though they are not using weapons to hit each other at the moment, they are still at war.
North Korea has worked for years to become a nuclear nation – and apparently, it achieved it a few month ago, according to their government – to protect from possible attacks from the United States, a powerful ally of South Korea.
Last year, there were several missile launches by North Korea generating a security dilemma in its neighboring countries, and it was mainly felt by South Koreans. Last year, people saw a historic new low in the relations of North Korea with both South Korea and the United States.
Nobody thought that would change this 2018, but then North Korean leader Kim Jong-un publically expressed that his nation intended to go to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, that he wished South Korea was able to carry out the best Olympics and that he was willing to initiate negotiations to reduce tensions in the Korean peninsula.
Mr. Kim’s comments were completely unexpected by the entire international community. However, they were very well received by the South Korean government. It has been just a week since the announcement made by North Korea, and they have already arranged a meeting between the representatives of both nations.
The meeting will be held on Tuesday. It will be the first meeting between North and South Korea since December 2015. It will be held at a place known as Panmunjom or “truce village,” located in a Joint Security Area. It is the sole part of the 250 kilometers (160 miles) zone between the nations where North and South Korean soldiers stand face-to-face.
This is the same place where a dramatic defection took place by a North Korean soldier last month, who tried to escape to the south while his former colleagues were trying to shoot him.
The main topic to be discussed are the requirements of both nations to give way to the participation of North Korea in the Winter Olympics that are to begin next month. The inter-Korean relationship might also be discussed, according to officials in Seoul.
What to expect from this meeting
Though a meeting between the north and the south might be entirely unexpected -especially given the actions taken by North Korea last year to portrait itself as an increasing threat in the region – there is no reason to believe there are going to solve their problems leading to a Korean peninsula with no tensions. Several meetings have been held in the past between these nations, and no definite and sizable outcome was ever achieved.
Telling what the real intentions of North Korea are is not so easy to say, for an unpredictable dictator rules them. Thus, even if South Korea is willing to take part in these negotiations, it must be cautious.
“I think prudence dictates that we be very cautious about these talks,” said Evans Revere who is a former US diplomat in South Korea. “We’ve been down this road before … in almost every instance, ultimately we’ve been disappointed.”
South Korea and the world expect good news from these talks, but optimism shouldn’t be that high for North Korea doesn’t seem as it is willing to give up its nuclear program. If it doesn’t, then there doesn’t seem to be a common ground between the nations to find a real solution to their longtime problems.
“It is very much in the US interest that the talks be expanded to include tensions reductions mechanisms and nuclear and missile test freezes, but the Trump team seems hesitant to seize the opportunity,” said Adam Mount “these talks have begun more despite Trump than because of him” he added. Mount is a senior fellow at the Federation of American Scientists for nuclear and defense policy.