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The world watched with excitement as the North and South Korean leaders had their historic handshake last week. This was the first ever visit by a North Korean leader to the South and marked a sharp U-turn in politics between two countries which have been technically at war for nearly 70 years.
Whilst these improving relations are very encouraging, it is worth noting that several peace talks have taken place in the past and they all led to disappointment. Indeed there were three instances where a peace agreement seemed very close. In 1994, Kim-Jong Il, the father of the current North Korean leader, signed an agreed framework with the US designed to freeze and dismantle the North Korean nuclear weapons program. In 2000 a South-North summit resulted in a joint declaration that both sides were aiming for peace on the peninsula and the reunification of Korea. As a result, North and South Korean teams marched jointly at the Sydney Olympics and the South Korean President was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2007, both sides signed a peace declaration, calling for international talks in order to replace the Korean War with a permanent peace treaty. Again, as in previous instances, hopes were dashed as North Korea didn’t follow through on its promises and continued its nuclear weapons program.
So is it different this time and are there more reasons to be hopeful? The answer is a clear yes. This is mainly for three reasons:
Whilst it is unlikely that Kim will give up his existing nuclear arsenal (he probably would demand a complete withdrawal of US troops from South Korea in exchange), the prospects of a signed peace treaty formally ending the war have never been better.
The CIO weekly thoughts focus and reflect on key topics, which caught Lars Kalbreier's mind during the week. It is more a free expression of thoughts to trigger healthy debates amongst the readership and by no means intended to be a strategy review.