North Korea’s policy shift may cast new light on global relations

Kaushik Ahmed

MNA Feature Desk: The increasing emphasis on controlling the assets, holding the fuel resources and fighting for global control, the regional and intercontinental conflict is reaching new heights all around the world. Several countries are engaged in wars not only affecting the warring countries but also the global economy.

Along with serious crisis in countries like; Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and many more, the world is experiencing a severe turbulence in its political structure. The situation in almost all the cases is influenced from out of the border and one of the greatest conflicts as such is anticipated to be the US-North Korea conflict.

The world remained threatened by the possibility of vicious clashes between these two nuclear powers of the world. But recently with some progressive steps of North Korea, possibility of reducing tension was initiated and that only will not change the scenario of the two countries but will also have huge impact on the politics and economy of the whole Northeast Asia.

North Korea, well known for its autocratic leadership style, has stayed separate from the world on many issues for almost a century. It has been held responsible for war, espionage, producing threatening weapons and many things else. The current Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un was termed as a fanatic while former US President George W. Bush labeled the country as a member of an ‘Axis of Evil’ several times during his presidency.

It will not be wrong to say that, North Korea has been unorthodox in several considerations since its establishment in 1948. Its enmity with Japan and South Korea along with espionage and military attacks had drawn a critical image of the country in front of the world. The country’s Supreme Leader’s frequent testing of missiles and threats of declaring war against the US has added fuel to this hot-headed image of North Korea while current US President Donald Trump is also thought of similar character. Many feared that a strong clash was evident but North Korea seems to be shifting from that mindset in recent days as it is expected to have friendly discussions with South Korea on Friday and with the US during the upcoming two months.

The enmity between the North and South Korea started as soon as the establishment of these two countries in 1948 though they could have been the greatest ally upholding the Korean unification ideology. The relations between these two countries started in 1945 upon the division of Korea at the end of World War II. Since then, the North and South Korea have been locked in a conflict which exploded into open warfare in 1950 with the beginning of Korean War that continued ever since, upsetting the goal of Korean reunification.

North Korea was blamed the most for such enmity though South Korea also instigated several tensions. Though South Korean people holds the most negative view after Japan on North Korea, several surveys and studies have shown that majority of them thinks the unification of Korea is required.

Under the leadership of its Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, North Korean economy is threatened by the sanctions of a large number of countries of the world. Along with South Korea, Japan and the US, many other countries put a ban on imports from North Korea. In 2005, UK led 45 countries including US and Japan to submit a proposal of condemning North Korea  to the United Nations which was passed a month later despite China and Russia opposing the proposal.

This condemnation was on the basis of ‘systematic humanitarian violation’ which has led North Korea to be isolated from the world considering the global economic context. The country showed immense focus on testing the missiles in recent years and the US kept blaming it for producing and preserving weapons of mass destruction. Kim did not deny that allegation much rather he kept threatening US of intercontinental ballistic missile attack.

During the same time, the US continued to strengthen its ties with South Korea and Japan which one can guess will provide them an edge in addressing Kim’s threats. In spite of that, very recently the scenario seems to be changing suddenly as all these states are showing gestures of soliciting the conflicts.

Moon Jae-in became President of South Korea in 2017. During his election campaign, he made a promise of returning to the sunshine policy, a policy declared by the former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung towards North Korea leading towards the first Inter-Korean Summit in June, 2000 and a Nobel Peace Prize for the South Korean President. North Korean Supreme leader Kim Jong-un proposed sending a delegation to the upcoming Winter Olympics in South Korea during his New Year address of 2018 which reopened the Seoul-Pyongyang hotline almost after two years.

North and South Korea marched together in the Olympics opening ceremony and also fielded a united women’s ice hockey team. Along with the athletes, North Korea sent an exceptional high-level delegation, headed by President Kim Yong-nam and Kim Yo-jong, sister of Supreme Leader Kim. The delegation passed on an invitation to President Moon to visit North Korea. Authorities of the two countries raised the possibility of holding 2021 Asian Winter Games together following the Olympics. In spite of these shining prospects, some political analysts were doubtful of Kim Jong-un’s peace proposition.

In March this year, a South Korean delegation met Kim Jong-un in Pyongyang. Later they travelled to Washington to pass on an invitation to President Donald Trump to have a meeting with Kim. As a result, meeting of North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un is set on Friday with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and with US President Donald Trump during June 2018.

On last Saturday, North Korea declared that, it would immediately suspend nuclear and missile tests, scrap its nuclear test site and instead pursue economic growth and peace. Immediately the world leaders appreciated that declaration as it is acknowledged as a revolutionary step to denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Both South Korea and Japan welcome the declaration along with China, the greatest ally of North Korea.

Trump has already called Kim “very honourable” ahead of this upcoming face-to-face meeting and in recognition of North korean declaration, which is another gesture of shining prospects considering the labelling of Kim as ‘little rocket man’ by Trump and that of Trump as ‘mentally deranged US dotard’ by Kim in counter even till few days ago. Trump’s acknowledgement of Kim as ‘very honourable’ has already received severe criticism due to Kim’s dictatorial leadership style and critical violation of human rights while ruling the country.

South Korea also portrayed good intentions as they switched off propaganda broadcasts it used to boom across the border with North Korea. Hundreds of loud speakers were set till Monday facing the bordering North Korean village to broadcast anti-North Korean regime news, political propaganda and Korean pop songs etc. North Korea also has similar arrangement facing South Korea.

Another interest party in this development is Japan, who is also known as an enemy of North Korea. The tension among these two counties went high with allegations of North Korea abducting Japanese citizens during the six year period from 1977 to 1983. Although Japan officially acknowledged abduction of at least 17 citizens and North Korea admitted abduction of only 13 Japanese citizens.

Few of these 13 abductees returned to Japan upon discussion between the then Japanese and North Korean premiers while few were claimed to be dead. But the actual victims of such activities of North Korea could be hundreds of Japanese people. These abductions are considered to be the acts of North Korean espionage and led to several sanctions over North Korea not only by Japan bust also by several other countries.

With recent developments, Japan also becomes hopeful to improve its relationship with North Korea as the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed hope to normalize ties between the two countries. He also requested the South Korean President Moon to raise the issue of Japanese abductees in North Korea during the Inter-Korean summit on Friday as he believed that with those issues resolved, relations can be improved between the two neighbouring countries. Moon also affirmed Abe that, the issue will be discussed in the meet.

Hence, it is for sure that doors of regional and global cooperation are being opened in the Northeast Asia as all major countries are planning to reduce tensions and conflicts while establishing profitable relations with the Western world. With US and China engaged in trade war, the global economy is already expecting strong turbulence. In that scenario, these developments can work as shock absorbers. It can also reduce the tension between US and China if North Korea can play the cards right in favour of its long time ally.

Russia’s involvement here can create some dubious angles but the Russian economy is not in such a comfortable position that it will engage in economic wars. So, the overall scenario seems to enjoy new sunshine in Northeast Asia.

As we have observed till now, no countries want to destabilize their political position which they have built based on their economy. All the global economic powers are looking for new opportunities and we as global citizens must respect that if we want peace. We hence expect both Kim and Trump to keep their heads cool and voices down over the upcoming meets.

The Writer is Associate Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA).