After decades of tensions between North and South Korea, Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un have announced they will work together to arrive at a peace treaty and to denuclearize the peninsula. The South plans to open a liaison office in the North and work with America and China to draft the peace treaty.
So what’s next? It’s hard to know for certain right now, but there are several possible outcomes.
One, it could all be for naught. There have been many times in the past when North and South Korean leaders have met and promised to work together to end the war and denuclearize the peninsula. According to New York, past attempts were unsuccessful. And similar to past failed agreements, the statement failed to mention timelines or an inspection regimen.
Some are worried that the long-term reunification could lead to all of Korea being under North Korea’s totalitarian thumb.
There’s also much speculation about whether the North will actually denuclearize, experts pointing to the “weak nuclear language” by both leaders. AP reported that the North did not make a clear commitment on denuclearization, while a Liberty Korea Party Chairman called the summit a “show camouflaged by peace.”
Moreover, considering that North Korea’s nuclear test site has recently collapsed, Kim Jong-un could have ulterior motives in suddenly seeking peaceful relations with South Korea. The South China Morning Post detailed that the mountain nuclear test site in North Korea has crumbled, which could lead to radioactive fallout in the area. This includes the possibility of radioactive waste traveling to China by wind. Some scientists believe that there is a good possibility that recent earthquakes in the nearby areas were triggered by the mountain’s collapse.
North Korea and South Korea have just made history! They’ve announced that they will sign a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War. pic.twitter.com/cvGqBur9SE— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) April 27, 2018
In fact, a North Korean geologist, Lee Doh-sik, met with senior Chinese government geologists. It was two days later that North Korea announced they would cease land-based nuclear testing. Hu Xingdou, a Beijing scholar, believes that North Korea was warned to stop testing by China. There was a good chance that if they continued with nuclear weapons testing, that a volcano on the Korea-China border, Changbai Mountain, could erupt.
Since North Korea has other options for nuclear testing, experts believe it’s important to monitor future nuclear activity. If North Korea resumes nuclear testing in the future, it would mean that Kim Jong-un remains a global threat.
Many are waiting to see if, and when, the summit between President Trump and Kim Jong-un takes place. David Albright, president of the Institute for Science and International Security, says that “in the end its going to depend on Trump getting a reasonable denuclearization plan.” Albright also believes that the meeting with Trump needs to happen quickly, while the door of opportunity is open, according to USA Today. However, just Thursday morning, Trump said on Fox and Friends that “maybe the meeting doesn’t even take place. Who knows?” Until Trump speaks again about the matter, it’s hard to tell if the meeting will take place or not.
For now, Koreans and the rest of the world can only wait to see how this new round of promises between two old enemies plays out.