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The Korea Times Q & A: Will South Korea’s peace gesture work?

Q: During the G20 summit in Germany last week, Moon introduced his initiative for an inter-Korean summit to discuss a peace treaty with a more practical package including family reunions. What do you think of his peace gesture while the North is continuing missile launches? Do you think it is a viable option at this point?

Sean King: It’d be ridiculous for the U.S. to sign any peace treaty with North Korea because the North attacked the South, not the U.S. or the other way around. This is thus a matter between Seoul and Pyongyang. It’s Seoul’s own business if Moon wants to sign a peace treaty with Kim Jong-un but Kim would never go for it anyway, as it’d require Pyongyang’s recognition of the South and would debunk his regime’s false ultranationalist narrative that his grandfather was defending the peninsula against U.S. forces. The U.S. could in theory sign a parallel agreement with Beijing but it’s a moot point, as Pyongyang would never sign any such underlying treaty with Seoul to begin with.

Q: Can you provide any advice for President Moon on how to deal with North Korea?

King: What South Korea says actually isn’t all that important to Kim Jong-un, as the North’s singularly focused on its position vis-a-vis the U.S. Pyongyang sees itself as the true Korean government and insists on directly dealing only with the U.S. But for the U.S. to let Kim come straight to the U.S. without his first acknowledging Seoul would undermine our own Korean ally. Similarly, we recognized East Germany in 1974 but only after the two Germanies recognized each other in 1972.

German unification didn’t happen because West Germany reached out to its eastern counterpart, but rather it happened because Moscow chose to no longer support East Berlin and East Germany thus collapsed. Hence North Korea’s collapse is the only real avenue toward any favorable Korean unification scenario.

 

Read the full Q & A here.

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