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Tensions along the Korean Peninsula

Tensions along the Korean Peninsula

UPSC CSE Mains Syllabus: GS-1- History of the world will include events from 18th century such as industrial revolution, world wars, redrawal of national boundaries, colonization, decolonization

In news:

  • By blowing up a joint liaison officeon the border with South Korea and threatening to deploy troops along the demilitarised zone, North Korea is now showing an aggressive posturing with the threat of war.
  • Troubles began in the peninsula early this year after a deadline the North dictated to the U.S. to achieve progress in the denuclearisation talks expiredon December 31.
  • North Korea has conducted missile teststhis year, sending warning signals to Seoul and Washington.
  • The latest crisis was triggered by anti-North defector groupsthat sent out propaganda leaflets via balloons across the border.
  • Angered by the South’s refusal to crack down on them, Pyongyang has severed hotlines, demolished the liaison office, and is planning to deploy troops along the border.
  • Tensions now risk rolling back whatever little was achieved through engagement over the past two years.

Why did North Korea develop nuclear weapons?

  • The Korean peninsula was divided after World War Twoand the North developed an authoritarian form of government.
  • Isolated globally, it saw nuclear weapons as a deterrent against a world it believed was seeking to destroy it.

Could it carry out a nuclear attack?

How did talks begin:

  • After months of escalating mutual threats, in January 2018 Mr Kim said he was“open to dialogue”.
  • Mr Trump accepted, ignoring past pre-talk conditions that North Korea denuclearise first.
  • On 12 June 2018, Mr Trump became the first sitting presidentto meet a North Korean leader.
  • At the Singapore summit, a joint statement was signed by the two leaders, outlining goals such as a commitment to “jointheir efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” and the DPRK committing to working towards “complete denuclearisation” but with no detail on what that meant.
  • However, researchers say the statement did not address specific issues pertaining to US-North Korea relationsor even the Korean Peninsula.
  • After Trump’s return to the US, he said North Korea was no longer a nuclear threat but simultaneously ordered the continuation of restrictions on North Korea and its citizens.
  • Approximately four months after the Singapore Summit ended, there were reports that the two leaders would meet for a second summit, that was eventually held in Hanoi in February 2019.

Back to stalemate?

  • Since then, there has been little progress, despite more talks.
  • The US wants North Korea to unilaterally give up its nuclear weaponswhile Pyongyang wants a step-by-step approach to ease the crippling sanctions regime.
  • The most recent talks between officials, though not leaders, took place in Sweden in October 2019.
  • The US said “good discussions were had” but North Korea said the US brought nothing to the negotiation table”.
  • Since then, North Korea has continued missile testing.,while the US has urged Pyongyang to resume talks.

Missed opportunity:

  •  Kim had in principle agreed to denuclearisation in return for the lifting of American sanctions.
  • But talks stalled as the U.S. insisted on “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization”by North Korea in return for any concession.
  • The North Koreans were wary, particularly because of the S.’s history of going after dictators such as Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi of Libya or its breaching of the Iran nuclear deal.
  •  Kim’s regime offered a staged approach.
  • It put a freeze on nuclear testsand offered to shut its Yongbyon nuclear complex.
  • The U.S. and South Korea could have responded to these measures and kept the talks on track.
  • On less contentious issues, such as declaring a formal end to the Korean war— both Koreas are still technically at war — an agreement could have been achieved as a confidence-building measure. But that road was not taken.
  • Worse, the U.S. and South Korea went ahead with their joint military exercise.

Mr. Trump is now grappling with many problems at home — from the coronavirus outbreak and a sagging economy, to anti-racism protests.

US should take measures to revive talks with North Korea and push the peninsula back to normalcy.

Source:” The Hindu“.

POSSIBLE UPSC CSE MAINS QUESTION:

What are the events that led to the Korean war of 1950? Discuss the reasons for the current tensions along the Korean Peninsula.