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Korean Peninsula: the calm before the storm

Marcelo Rech

On the last day 14, I published an article on the Olympic Truce, a tradition that comes from the ancient Greeks and which has been gradually restored at major sporting events. Well, it seems that it has been respected in the Games of PyeongChang. For the first time since December 2015, Seoul and Pyongyang sat at the table and expressed their common desire to advance the cooperation agenda on security themes.

Undoubtedly, the North Korean gesture of sending a significant delegation of athletes, journalists, and even a musical group to the Games in the neighboring country contributed to the improvement of relations. Athletes from both Koreas also participated together in various events before and during the Games.

Kim Jong-un’s decision was acclaimed internationally, however, the political will of the leaders of both Koreas alone is not enough to end the crisis on the Peninsula. Unfortunately, the world’s main “gendarme“, the United States, have not been enthusiastic and seem uninterested in the stability of the region.

Instead of working to strengthen a constructive dialogue to reach agreement on the North Korean Nuclear Program, the Trump administration decided to ignore the symbolism of the moment and focus on economic and political pressures.

On January 24, Washington issued a new list of sanctions against North Korea. In Davos, Switzerland, the president of the United States stated that “the US administration unites all civilized nations against the brutal regime of North Korea.” In addition, under the pretext of offering security and protection against the “North Korean nuclear threat”, the Pentagon has significantly increased its military presence in that region and has conducted military exercises that may be viewed as a “provocation.”

Even the postponement of the joint maneuvers between the United States and South Korea – Foal Eagle – to after the Paralympic Winter Games, are not convincing. The scenario is of more pressure on the part of the White House, specially because of the negotiations around a possible unification between the two Koreas.

Pyongyang also has its conditions in order to advance the dialogue with its neighbor: that there is a discontinuance in the cooperation between Seoul and Washington, something that the United States will never accept, since it means losing not only the legal conditions to move troops in that region, but also an unique strategic ally.

Marcelo Rech is a journalist, director of InfoRel, specialist in International Relations, Strategies and Policies of Defense, Terrorism and Counterinsurgence and the Impact of Human Rights in Armed Conflicts.
E-mail: inforel@inforel.org.

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