Since the collapse of the second U.S.-North Korean summit talks in Hanoi, Vietnam, uncertainties have been growing on the Korean peninsula.
Both South and North Korea are embarrassed by the collapse of the Hanoi Summit where the United States wanted to make a package deal and North Korea stuck to a staged approach. Because South and North Korea were expecting an agreement at the minimum level, neither expected the breakdown of the negotiations.
As U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the withdrawal of additional sanctions against North Korea after the summit, the United States and North Korea avoided a head-on collision. However, there has been still no change in the difference among positions of Washington and Pyongyang, putting Seoul, which is in between them, at a loss.
While Washington is urging Seoul to persuade Pyongyang to denuclearize, the communist regime is pressing Seoul to persuade Washington to ease its hard-line stance towards itself. If South Korean President Moon Jae-in takes a hard-line stance toward North Korea as urged by the United States, North Korea may leave the table for denuclearization negotiations as shown in its recent withdrawal from South-North Korea Liaison Office in Gaeseong in North Korea. On the other hand, if President Moon tries to persuade the United States according to the pressure from North Korea, it may undermine the South Korea-U.S. alliance, far from softening Washington’s hard-line position. President Moon is caught in a real dilemma. In particular, there is not a little discord between South Korea and the United States over the issue of the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
Accordingly, what is needed most is that two Koreas and the United States should agree on a basic concept of denuclearization. The United States has demanded a complete denuclearization of North Korea, but North Korea has targeted the withdrawal of strategic military assets which can bomb the Korean peninsula with nukes from Guam and Hawaii and the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces capable of launching a nuclear attack from South Korea.
So far as the denuclearization of North Korea is concerned, now North Korea has no way out of John Bolton downplaying North Korea’s tiered approach as a tactic, and a shutdown of nuclear facilities at Yongbyon in North Korea alone would disable North Korea from clearing hurdles of the U.S. administration and Congress.
In fact, since Moon Jae-in came to power, the question of whether or not South Korea should be regarded as a U.S. ally has been raised in the United States. To be honest, the Moon Jae-in regime seems to have fallen out of favor with the Trump administration. Although “Moon Jae-in Passing” is turning into “South Korea Passing,” only the Moon Jae-in administration seems not to know it. This is well proved by the fact that the United States and Japan exchanged information on the progress in the denuclearization negotiations before and after the second U.S.-North Korean summit more actively than South Korea and the United States did. This may mean that Seoul has become a partner that cannot be trusted in information exchanges with Washington.
Those in the know are concerned over a rift in the South Korea-U.S. alliance and even the United States worries about the Moon Jae-in government’s recognition of the South Korea-U.S. alliance, but the Moon Jae-in regime is misleading the Korean people, saying that there is no problem in the South Korea-U.S. alliance amid North Korea’s fueling the breakdown of the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
The longer distance the Moon Jae-in administration keeps from the United States, the more distant the denuclearization of North Korea will become and ultimately the bigger the possibility of a military conflict on the Korean peninsula will become. As South Korea and the United States have become more divided on their relationships with China and North Korea, the relationship between Seoul and Washington is getting worse. There is a growing concern among Koreans over the final destination of the development of this situation.