The United States and North Korea are once again locked in a diplomatic standoff over denuclearization and the normalization of U.S.-North Korean relations. This has brought the promising start North and South Korea have made on building peace and security on the Korean Peninsula to a halt.
As South Korea pursues engagement with North Korea, thinking about unification through a stabilization framework can provide critical clues on navigating major challenges that unification might bring.
Integrating the two Koreas will be an arduous process. How the unification process evolves depends on the success of stabilization—which cuts across responses in political, military, social, and economic domains.
Significant progress has been made on this track over the past year, but the process is on life support and badly needs an industrial-scale shot of adrenaline. Bilateral relations between North and South Korea have undergone a rapid and positive transformation.
Trilateral defense coordination offers Japan, South Korea, and the United States an important avenue to advance their mutual interests and support peace and security in the Asia Pacific.
In the event a peace and security regime for the Korean Peninsula leads to North Korean agreement to reduce its conventional weapons and equipment, Kim may want to convert portions of the North’s defense industries to production of civilian goods.
The stakes for South Korean President Moon Jae-in could not have been higher when U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met in Hanoi in February 2019. The delicate relationship between Trump and Moon provides important context for their upcoming meeting on Thursday, April 11.
Washington and Seoul must agree on the purpose of their alliance if it is no longer needed to deter aggression by a hostile North Korea. Reaching a consensus on this question will not be easy.
It is hard to visualize an enduring peace between North and South Korea that does not include robust measures to reduce the threat of conventional war.
Unpacking the second U.S.-North Korea summit is going to be a long term process but it will be seen as a major turning point—both positively and negatively—on prospects for North Korea’s denuclearization, the extent of inter-Korean détente, and the future of the U.S.-ROK alliance.