Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The Korean model

Friday’s historic summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and his South Korean counterpart, President Moon Jae-in, sends a great sign of hope and presents a model to follow for the entire world.

The Korean War, 65 years ago, was one of the bloodiest in the post-World War II era, leaving hundreds of thousands of people dead, from North and South, China and the United States. It is also one of few remaining hotspots that date back to the Cold War era between the United States, the former Soviet Union and China.

In recent years, North Korea’s repeated announcements on nuclear tests, and developing missiles that could allegedly reach US shores, further heightened tensions and increased chances of armed confrontation between North and South Korea where nearly 30,000 US troops have been placed since the end of the Korean War in 1954. Japan also viewed North Korean nuclear activities as a major threat to its security.

US President Donald Trump would very much like to take credit for the sudden and unexpected rapprochement between the two Koreas, insisting that it was his threats to use military force, and imposing tough sanctions, that led North Korea to change course. However, reality is that it was the desire for peace among Koreans themselves that made such an unexpected development come about.

South Korean President Moon campaigned during elections on improving ties with the North and genuinely saw no benefit for his country and people to remain in a state of war with its neighbour, especially that they are one people who speak the same language and hold the same values.

Indeed, the US provided key support for South Korea since its creation as an independent nation and its troops there have been vital to deter the North. But it is Seoul and Tokyo who were to pay the heaviest price in case conflict escalated and missiles were to fly over the Korean Peninsula.

China, Pyongyang’s key ally, should also take credit for joining the international community in delivering a clear message to North Korea that it must accept putting an end to its nuclear tests and defying the rules of the International Atomic Energy Agency. In several Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on North Korea for ignoring demands not to develop nuclear weapons, China joined the rest of the world in approving those resolutions, without using its veto power.

Meanwhile, many observers were left to wonder how it was possible for influential world powers to achieve such significant progress towards solving the Korean conflict while many of them remain heavily involved in fuelling other confrontations, especially in the Middle East region. Ending the world’s only remaining case of occupation and discrimination in Palestine, or putting an end to ongoing wars in Syria or Yemen, cannot be more difficult or complicated than the long-standing Korean conflict.

If the international community is to maintain any credibility in terms of denuclearisation and saving the world from the danger of nuclear weapons, why should Israel be given exceptional status and allowed to keep its nuclear arsenal? Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons is the world’s largest well-known “secret”, with the consent of its main patron, the United States, which is not putting the slightest pressure on Tel Aviv to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or to open its nuclear sites to international inspections.

The claim by Israel that it needs nuclear weapons to deter surrounding Arab “enemies” never made sense in the first place, considering the geography of the region. Nuclear weapons will not protect Israel, or improve its status in the region or worldwide. Ending Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories and allowing the creation of an independent Palestinian state is the only way to provide Israel with permanent security. Otherwise, it will remain in an endless state of war and its reputation worldwide will be that of a racist occupying state that violates the basic human rights of the Palestinian people.

However, as in the case of the Korean Peninsula, countries of the Middle East region should be the main parties to take the responsibility for solving their conflicts, without necessarily waiting for the United States or Russia to intervene. Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all have a vital role to play in order to settle key conflicts in Palestine, Syria and Yemen. If such efforts were to succeed, then the United States should join in and accept the compromises reached by the countries directly involved, as they are the ones mostly harmed by those ongoing conflicts.

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