Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying could have chosen a better Chinese proverb to describe the meeting between North Korean sadist Kim Jong-un and Korean president Moon Jae-in. “Disasters are never powerful enough to separate real brothers, and a smile is all they need to eliminate the hard feelings,” Hua said.
And VX nerve agent is all it takes for a dictator to murder his actual brother.
The headlines said in 1994 and 2007 that North Korea would end its nuclear program. The headlines say now that they will make a peace deal.
The negotiators on the North Korean side are wily and skilled manipulators. Sitting on the Korean side was a liberal president with sympathies for “peace,” who served in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, which abstained from voting on a UN resolution condemning North Korea’s human rights abuses; and a chief presidential secretary, Im Jong-suk, who served prison time for organizing a propaganda trip to North Korea as a radical student activist in the 1980’s. The chief American negotiator, should a purported meeting go forward, is skilled at getting manipulated, has called Kim “very honorable” for hosting a series of propaganda summits in order to boost his own standing and already appears to trust North Korea enough to give them credit for things it hasn’t agreed to.
These are not things that inspire confidence.
North Korea is under intense pressure. China is actually implementing sanctions much more aggressively than it has in the past. Trade between China and North Korea was down 10 percent between 2017 and ’16. Month-on-month, Chinese imports were down 80% in December 2018 vs ’17. It’s close to a four year low.
North Korea knows how to play the game to get some aid when they need it. They will pull out of a nuclear deal and make some kinds of threats until they get a response and play nice for a few months. Moon Jae-in, for his part, showed he could fold when he gave North Korea favorable terms to entice them to participate in the Olympics.
In the broader picture, peace will never come to the peninsula until it is unified under Republic of Korea control. Even if Kim Jong-un suddenly gives up nuclear weapons and stops firing on islands for good–something that can only be seen in a timespan of many years–25 million Koreans will still be living under the threat of indoctrination, arrest, torture, and murder in the public square. All this talk of “brotherhood” is as valuable as Kim’s talk of denuclearizing. Some peace.