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CWA # 26, 10 June 2018

East Asia
The Panmunjom Declaration: “Tip of the Iceberg”

  Siddhatti Mehta

The Panmunjom Declaration is a great beginning between North Korea and South Horea. How far will this process go? Will this lead to the unification of the two Koreas? Will it address the larger issue of denuclearization in the peninsula?

School of Liberal Studies, PDPU, Gandhinagar & Research Intern, National Institute of Advanced Studies, IISc (Bengaluru)

The Panmunjom Declaration signed recently between the North and South Korea has been the biggest breakthroughs in East Asia in recent decades. It is a great beginning; but how far will this process go? Will this lead to the unification of the two Koreas? Will it address the larger issue of denuclearization in the peninsula?

The Panmunjom Declaration: A Brief Note
Both countries acknowledged the bilateral tensions and have agreed to work for peaceful relations and solving border conflict. The entire meet revolved around the common goal of unification, Denuclearization, peace regime, joining sports forces, disarmament and end of the war. The Pyongyang visit by the two countries through regular discussion and frequent contact was also the key to a joint effort for the success of the declaration. Considering the key points of declaration and the positive approach of North Korea; this proved to be an enormous shift from the earlier outlook of the country to not even consider the summit or the declaration and denuclearization itself.

The declaration aims at bringing the two countries at cold war to make peace and work together in making their countries accept the differences and work towards a better future. 

Challenges of Unification
The two countries have shared a firm commitment to bring peace and reconnect blood relations of the people separated by the division and internal conflict prompting comprehensive inter-Korean relations. The long-standing humanitarian issues between the two countries have been a matter of concern since long. Now that the declaration of unification has been signed, the challenges of the process are the only roadblocks. 

One of the major challenges for unification is the incompatibility of the two governments due to the polar apart approaches of governing. If and only if either of them steps down the unification will become a reality. Since there is absolute control over the actions of the North Koreans, the government will have to change their ways of governing and will have to be open to a parallel way of governance with South Korea. Ruling out the Force of Unification will also play a major role along with keeping the needs of the people above their personal interest will be the key step towards unification. Once this dream is realized it will only make the two countries strong economically and also in terms of internal growth with reduced levels of poverty and the divide in the society. 

Will the bonhomie lead to denuclearization?
The hostile acts by both countries and the tensions at the Korean peninsula have always been the major challenge for the two countries to solve. Since North Korea is an advanced country with its own military power and nuclear weapons, the South Koreans have always lived with a fear of attack. The summit proved to be a stepping-stone towards talks of denuclearization at the peninsula and eliminating all acts of violence and cross-border conflicts. 

The first steps to alleviate military tension are to cease all hostile acts by both countries through land, sea, and air and transform the demilitarized zone into a peace zone. Both the countries agreed to strictly adhere to the Non-Aggression Agreement and carry out disarmament to build confidence.

Since the summit, the entire world has been looking towards North Korea for agreeing for denuclearization. If the North denuclearizes it will not only bring peace between the south and north but will also encourage the elimination of nuclear weapons as the only option to fight potential wars. The declaration, signed with a lot of hope for a bright future can only reap fruits if there is no violation and both countries actively take part in realizing it.

“The Beginning and Tip of the Iceberg”
The North Korean leader said that ‘it is the beginning and the tip of the Iceberg’, while on the other hand, the South Korean president welcomed the change with open hands. Whatever it may be in the future the present developments have certainly proved advantageous for the people of these countries and especially in clearing the fear among the people for a potential war that had been looming over for a while now. The Korean peninsula will remain the centre of conflict until the countries actively stand by their word and agreement of border friendliness.

The questions are: how big is the iceberg or how huge and complicated is the process of unification and denuclearization? Because ultimately it is a country with a weak economy and no other attributes to strive on, nuclear weapons are the biggest assets that it survives on. 

Unification is not only going to bring separated families together but it is also going to help people engage more with each other across the border than ever before. It will also bring a balance of power between the two countries with access to resources and technology. 

To conclude, from a broader perspective the entire summit may not have brought long-lasting solutions or complete trust for North Korea but it has definitely been a ray of light in order of its integrated efforts to bring peace and prosperity among Koreans of both the countries. Even though unification and denuclearization may have to take the front seat at the summit the less small issue of participation in world games did realize at the winter Olympics for starters. Along with the efforts of conducting joint meeting and discussions between the two governments and the people.  

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