Analysis, by Dr Chris Ogden* – HeraldScotland


Kodak digital – Lorenzo Sturiale ©


The meeting of the two leaders of North and South Korea has the potential to diffuse longstanding tensions in the region, which in the last year have threatened to trigger a nuclear conflict.

As such, international expectations are mounting for a breakthrough to unlock decades of instability between the two sides.

Most anticipated of all is the possible signing of a peace treaty to formally mark the end of the Korean War – a conflict placed on hold by an armistice dating from 1953 but whose seemingly intractable nature has maintained a state of persistent near-war between Pyongyang and Seoul.

While this outcome appears the most probable, alongside the North pledging a moratorium on conducting any further nuclear tests in return for renewed economic aid from the South, other fundamental items will be on their agenda.

First is denuclearisation, whereby North Korea renounces its nuclear weapons, which is a core strategic goal for the South and key regional actors such as the United States and Japan.

For the North to agree to such an outcome however it would most likely need to be accompanied by their demand for the peninsula to be to demilitarised, which would involve the withdrawal of all US troops, as well as the standing down of the North and South Korean militaries. Furthermore, Kim Jong-un has also signalled a desire to reunify the two Koreas (which has some support in the South) as part of his vision to resurrect the Korean civilisation.

If a formal peace treaty is signed, and progress made on these other issues, it will significantly impact on the upcoming summit between Kim Jong-Un and President Trump by drastically increasing pressure on the US President to prove his apparent mettle as the “world’s greatest dealmaker”.

*Senior Lecturer in Asian Security, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

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