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The Hard Work Begins On The Korean Peninsula

April 27, 2018

I recall the thrill and awe when a teenager watching Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin step onto the world stage and shake hands.  The long hard fights and disappointments ebbed long enough for a glimmer of hope to be realized.   That memory came to mind today when I saw the video of North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in shaking hands and making a bold statement that the Korean War will come to an end by the end of this year.

But the handshakes are always the easy part.   The hard part of making such headlines work are now resting on the shoulders of countless diplomats from the the Koreas, China, and the United States.

The statement that was signed today in part reads, “Bringing an end to the current unnatural state of armistice and establishing a robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula is a historical mission must not be delayed any further.”

How Southeast Asia came to have two separate Koreas along with the decades-long tensions are due to the wrong policy moves made during the second Word War.  In November 1943, President Roosevelt, Britain’s Winston Churchill, along with the conniving Chiang Kai Shek discussed what should happen to Japan’s conquered lands.  It was agreed–and correctly so–that Japan should and must lose rights to all occupied lands.  It was from a declaration at those talks that Korea is mentioned while noting the people in that nation were enslaved but should be free and independent.  Once Russia declared war on Japan in 1945 it was Dean Rusk, however, who was a major player in designing an American occupation zone in Korea to blunt potential moves by Stalin.  What he did not know about previous talks between Russia and Japan about controlling the peninsula would have made a tremendous difference.  History shows that a tougher response to Russian desires in Korea following Japan’s defeat would have been the proper policy move.

There was a woeful lack of knowledge in Washington during the first 40 years of the 20th century about the people in that entire region.  The ability of the China Lobby to hold such sway is but one prime example showing the lack of depth policy-makers had when ruminating about the millions who lived there.

Now we again are presented with a hope for the future with many unknowns moving forward.  What has motivated Kim to make this move is not clear–though one has to suspect that China tightened enough economic screws to make it seem the appropriate time to act.    But ‘good intentions’ from the past leaders in North Korea have not proven to be beneficial to the region.

While there is reason to respond with hope over the major news this morning it also needs to be said that the hard work is just starting.

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