North and South Korea are set for a landmark summit that could see major steps taken towards reunification. The talks between the divided Koreas are the first in over a decade. This could potentially put an end to a war that was started at the dawn of the Cold War in 1950, and notwithstanding the ceasefire armistice from 1953, has continued ever since. This comes on the back of the hugely-successful diplomatic effort between the two Koreas at the recently-concluded Peongchang Winter Olympics. Now, North Korea’s Kim Jong Un has made the massive concession that he is willing to immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests and scrap nuclear test sites if talks go well.
Why is this important?
Such a move would represent a major development in North Korea’s existing foreign policy. Because of North Korea’s isolation on the world stage, which sees it on the receiving end of an unprecedented and impoverishing slew of US and UN-led sanctions, as well as military exercises right on its border, it sees its nuclear program as the only way in which it can deter acts of aggression from more powerful states. Indeed, this nuclear capability has been a major sticking point on the international stage, culminating very dangerously when Trump and Kim engaged in a rather petty game of brinksmanship.
On the South Korean side, this development reflects major upheavals on the domestic front. President Moon Jae-In has been a major protagonist in the improving relations, and advocated for peace and rapprochement. He rose to power on the back of the Candlelight Revolution, which saw thousands of South Koreans protesting and ultimately impeaching the corrupt, right-wing government of Park Geun-Hye.
Lastly, this will have important implications for the United States. A reunified Korea, without a South dependent on it for defence, would reduce the American presence over a region that has become increasingly competitive in recent times. With Kim slated to also meet Trump soon after the Korean summit, the world watches with bated breath.