The recent meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump on June 12th 2018 has led to renewed hopes for a long sought for peace on the Peninsula - one which the Korean people have not known since 1945. A brutal civil war in southern Korea from 1945 to 1950 was responsible for the deaths of 2% of the population at conservative estimates. This was followed by a major war between the two Korean states from June 1950, with the intervention of both a U.S. led alliance of predominantly Western powers supporting Seoul on one side and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army supporting Pyongyang on the other, which saw an estimated 20-30% of the North Korean population killed largely as a result of the U.S. Air Force’s intense and indiscriminate firebombing campaigns. The Korean War, which ended with an armistice in July 1953, 65 years later has yet to see an official end.
While North Korea may well be able to yield a number of benefits from a detente with the United States, namely reduced international economic pressure and a better opportunity to form lasting friendly ties with neighbouring South Korea, a number of analysts have cautioned that there are inherent risks should Pyongyang place too much trust in promises of peace and concessions made by the United States. Security guarantees and the withdrawal of military assets from the Korean Peninsula are can all be reversed should the administration have a change of heart - or more likely by a subsequent U.S. administration which seeks a policy change from that of President Trump. With the Democratic Party and associated media organisations in the U.S. in particular highly critical of the President’s detente with Pyongyang, seeking additional concessions from North Korea including intrusive governance over the country’s internal affairs in matters pertaining to human rights and marketisation, a sudden change in American policy could be forthcoming as soon as January 2020. For North Korea to rearm itself should such a change occur would be far more difficult than redeployment of military assets and resumption of military pressure would be for the United States.
Key figures in the leadership of two states in particular have offered grave warnings regarding the potential risks of trusting the United States in negotiations. The first of these was Libya, a longstanding economic and defence partner of North Korea, the fate of which offered grave warnings to Pyongyang regarding the dangers of putting too much trust in such negotiations. Tripoli had negotiated near total disarmament deal with the United States in the early 2000s under the Republican George W. Bush administration, which saw the country abandon not only its weapons of mass destruction but also irreversibly dismantle its conventional ballistic missile arsenal, much of which was procured from North Korea itself, which had been key to the country’s deterrence capabilities. Additionally, Libya was forced to open its military facilities to Western inspectors which did much to compromise its armed forces’ ability to mount even a conventional defence - providing potential adversaries with key intelligence regarding the capabilities and combat readiness of its air force, air defence systems and other critical assets. While Libya was offered a lifting of sanctions and opening of economic relations with the Western Bloc as a result, its relations with the United States and its Western allies would change dramatically with the coming of the Obama administration in 2009.
Continued in Part Two