Door opens for long-needed talks with North Korea
Pyongyang will send a delegation to the belt and road summit in Beijing but trade will not be the only item on the agenda; it also provides a chance to negotiate a resolution to the nuclear and missile crisis on the Korean peninsula
In just 24 hours, hopes have been raised that the logjam over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes can be broken. China announced that a North Korean delegation will attend the belt and road summit in Beijing on Sunday and Monday, creating the possibility of negotiations on aspects of the crisis. Moon Jae-in took office as South Korea’s new president yesterday vowing to “do everything I can to build peace on the Korean peninsula”. Expectations have been lifted that the dialogue so necessary to ease tensions, yet for years absent, will soon resume.
The summit will be a chance for China and North Korea to bargain and negotiate. China’s decision follows scathing North Korean state media criticism for cutting off coal imports to comply with United Nations Security Council sanctions.
Relations between the once-staunch allies were already low amid fears that the North’s leader, Kim Jong-un, would order a sixth nuclear test. A series of successful and failed missile launches by Pyongyang this year have caused alarm to the point that US President Donald Trump sent an aircraft carrier to the peninsula.
Matters have not been helped by Washington’s construction of a missile shield in South Korea, perceived by China as a threat because of its radar capabilities. That has caused frosty diplomatic and economic relations between Beijing and Seoul, but Moon, who has expressed doubts over the shield, offers a chance of a fresh start. His election shifts South Korean politics from the centre-right to left for the first time in nine years, a switch that also returns a government willing to negotiate with the North. The new leader made his eagerness for talks to bring peace plain in his inauguration address, contending that if necessary, he would fly to Beijing, Washington, Tokyo and “even Pyongyang in the right circumstances”.
Moon faces many challenges, the most immediate being to unite a country divided by the impeachment scandal involving his predecessor, Park Geun-hye. Building an inclusive coalition government with common goals will be crucial to attaining results. But with his taking office and the North’s sending a delegation to Beijing finally comes a chance for long-needed talks.