Ulrich Kühn
Ulrich Kühn is a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the head of the arms control and emerging technologies program at the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.
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In 2018, political relations on the Korean peninsula are in flux to an unprecedented degree. Back in the summer of 2017, the possibility of a friendly visit of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un to South Korea would have seemed far-fetched. Even more unrealistic: the prospect of a potential summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump, openly discussing the possibility of a full de-nuclearization of the North and a lasting peace framework for both Koreas. «What is real, and what is illusion?» we might ask ourselves. Is it really possible that Kim Jong-un, after decades of strenuous efforts from North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons, and after being punished by the international community with the most rigid sanctions regime, will simply give up his ‹ultimate insurance› policy? Would Washington truly be ready to consider withdrawing its forces from the peninsula as a result of a comprehensive peace agreement? And what could all that mean for East Asia and Europe?

At this point in time, with so many variables in flux, we can merely speculate. However, sometimes speculation is the only available means for assessing future outcomes and options. Taking note of the unclear situation, this article deliberately engages in speculation and develops three scenarios for the Korean Peninsula. The author does not claim that any of these will become reality—and in certain cases strongly wishes the opposite.

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This piece was originally published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation.