By Melito Salazar Jr.
The inter-Korea summit between North Korea leader Kim Jong Un and South Korea President Moon Jae-in sparked hopes of an enduring peace in the Korean peninsula. In their joint statement, the two Korean leaders stated that within a year, they would push for a trilateral conference with the United States, or a four-party forum that will also include China, with the aim of “declaring an end to the Korean War” and intentions to “replace the armstice with a peace treaty.” An armstice brought about a ceasefire to the Korean War in 1953, but the conflict never officially ended because the parties could not agree on a formal peace treaty.
Both leaders also agreed to improve inter-Korean relations by opening a liaison office in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and arranging later this year of families separated by the war. Mr. Moon would visit Pyongyang, North Korea, in the fall. The South Korean president also ordered the dismantling of speakers blaring news, music and proganda to the North Korean side of the DMZ. Earlier, Mr. Kim had announced an end to all nuclear and long-range missile tests and a “new strategic line” focusing on economic environment.
What drew the greatest attention was their agreement to work to remove all nuclear weapons from the Korean peninsula. It also raised the question on how this can be achieved given the challenges that exist. It is clear such can not be achieved without the approval of both the United States and China as both superpowers have regarded their respective allies in the Korean peninsula as their surrogates in the global competition between the two.
North Korea believes it is negotiating from a position of strength with its capability to launch nuclear warheads to territories of the United States and closer, South Korea and Japan. It will not be easy for North Korea to just abandon this. A package of incentives from both the United States and South Korea is necessary. Beyond a firm declaration that the two will never attempt to invade North Korea, it may be desirable for the United States to remove its nuclear arsenal as well as troops from South Korea. In addition, support from South Korea and the United States will be pumped into North Korea to build manufacturing facilities and improve infrastructure. A Marshall-like rehabilitation plan for North Korea to raise its standard of living at par with the citizens of South Korea that would be funded not only by the United States and South Korea but also by China would be desirable.
During the Korean War, the Philippines sent troops to help the South Koreans. Today despite our being still a developing nation, it is incumbent for us to help the peace process. Instead of sending troops, let the Philippines send teachers, engineers, health workers to North Korea in its transformation into a better country for its people. Such a move could encourage other nations in Asia to do likewise, for peace in the peninsula will mean peace in Asia.
Such assistance from all these countries should not detract from the fact that North and South Korea should be left to themselves to sort out their differences and resolve their conflict. None should continue to be surrogates of the global powers. The United States, China, and Russia which are pursuing their competition for global influence in the many conflict stricken countries in the Middle East should stop interfering in the internal affairs of these countries. Any foreign intervention is better left under the auspices of the United Nations.
Left on their own, the North and South Koreas will be more speedily and with great goodwill and understanding create peace in the peninsula. Left on their own without the meddling of the global powers, the rest of the world will achieve lasting peace. This is my hope.