DISARMAMENT & SECURITY
An article from Deutsche Welle (reprinted by permission)
One day after the historic summit between North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump, there are a mix of reactions in South Korea.
The initial results of local elections taking place on Wednesday with the inner-Korean rapprochement in the background showed positive outcomes for the governing Minjoo party.
14 out of 17 mayoral posts and 10 of 12 parliamentary seats up for election went to Minjoo candidates. The results could considered be a vote of confidence for President Moon Jae-in’s North Korea policy.
Among South Korean conservatives, however, there is a growing feeling of disillusionment after Trump and Kim signed a letter of intent. For them, the potential denuclearization of North Korea now seems farther off than ever before.
Nam Sung-wook from Korea University was quoted in the largest South Korean daily Chosun Ilbo as saying the “complete, verifiable and irreversible disarmament is no longer a question.”
“Scam of the century”
A major point of contention is Trump’s statement suspending US-South Korean military maneuvers, citing them as “expensive and provocative war games.” There are concerns that the longstanding military alliance between the US and South Korea could be weakened.
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Can Korea be reunified in peace?
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Professor Park Won-gon from Handong Global University told DW that the letter of intent was “the biggest scam of the century that fulfilled 99 percent of North Korea’s wishes.”
In the US, major media outlets also reacted with concern after the summit. The New York Times wrote “North Korea is a nuclear power, get used to it.”
Joseph Yun, a foremost Korea expert in Washington said “North Korea wanted exactly this, and I cannot believe that our side allowed this to happen. I am totally surprised that months of negotiations have led to so few results.”
Surprise suspension of military exercises
President Trump’s plan to suspend military exercises was reportedly not agreed upon in advance with the South Korean government in Seoul. According to a South Korean government speaker, they were not entirely sure exactly what Trump meant by “war games.”
President Moon has called for a national security meeting to take place on Thursday in order to discuss the results of and potential ramifications of the summit.
In the past, South Korea’s government has expressed willingness to reduce the biannual military exercises. Nevertheless, the US and South Korea both consider the exercises to be an integral part of their decades-long alliance. The US current has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea.
The military exercises do regularly stir controversy with North Korea, which considers them to be a provocative act of war. Seoul and Washington say they are purely defensive.
For South Koreans, the potential to end the Korean War and achieve peace with the North is something many people are paying attention to.
“I think agreeing on denuclearization is good, but I had expected that Trump and Kim would announce the end of the Korean War,” a middle-aged South Korean on a city street in Seoul told DW. “Of course I know that everything can’t happen at once.”