The year 2018 represented a real turning point for the Korean peninsula. After years of increasing tension related to the North Korean nuclear and missile programme, the diplomatic process begun after Kim Jong Un’s New Year address marked a clear change from the previous decade, with consequences for both domestic and international politics of the two Koreas. The newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in invested much of his political capital in the rapprochement with North Korea, with successful results in terms of popularity in the first part of the year. When dialogue with Pyongyang started to stagnate, the disappointing economic results became a factor of major concern for the government and affected Moon’s approval rating. In North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s opening towards South Korea and the United States marked also the beginning of a new approach of the regime to economic development, in line with the second pillar of Kim’s byungjin policy line. The new emphasis on economic growth led the North Korean regime to pursue both cooperation with the South and a relaxation of international sanctions. The North Korean «diplomatic offensive» represented a new-start for inter-Korean dialogue. After the participation of North Korea in the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, the two leaders met for the third inter-Korean summit in history, in April, for a meeting full of symbolism and hopes for future cooperation. The joint declaration signed by Moon and Kim in Panmunjom represented a key step for inter-Korean reconciliation. The two leaders met again in May and for a third summit in September, when Moon travelled to Pyongyang. This new series of inter-Korean summits made possible new rounds of inter-Korean cooperation projects in culture and sport, as well as military confidence-building measures. However, the economic sanctions still in place hindered opportunities for substantial advancements in economic cooperation. The opening of North Korea towards the international community dominated also the foreign policy agenda of the two countries. For the first time in history, a North Korean leader met with a sitting American president, when Kim Jong Un met Trump in Singapore on 12 June, thanks mainly to the diplomatic mediation of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. After the summit, however, the diplomatic process stalled again over the practical steps towards denuclearisation and the corresponding measures from the US. The «diplomatic offensive» of North Korea was not limited to South Korea and the United States. In fact, Kim met with Chinese president Xi three times over the course of the year, in a successful attempt to revive the crucial alliance between Pyongyang and Beijing.

Korean Peninsula 2018: The calm after the storm

Marco Milani
2019

Abstract

The year 2018 represented a real turning point for the Korean peninsula. After years of increasing tension related to the North Korean nuclear and missile programme, the diplomatic process begun after Kim Jong Un’s New Year address marked a clear change from the previous decade, with consequences for both domestic and international politics of the two Koreas. The newly elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in invested much of his political capital in the rapprochement with North Korea, with successful results in terms of popularity in the first part of the year. When dialogue with Pyongyang started to stagnate, the disappointing economic results became a factor of major concern for the government and affected Moon’s approval rating. In North Korea, Kim Jong Un’s opening towards South Korea and the United States marked also the beginning of a new approach of the regime to economic development, in line with the second pillar of Kim’s byungjin policy line. The new emphasis on economic growth led the North Korean regime to pursue both cooperation with the South and a relaxation of international sanctions. The North Korean «diplomatic offensive» represented a new-start for inter-Korean dialogue. After the participation of North Korea in the Pyeongchang Olympic Games, the two leaders met for the third inter-Korean summit in history, in April, for a meeting full of symbolism and hopes for future cooperation. The joint declaration signed by Moon and Kim in Panmunjom represented a key step for inter-Korean reconciliation. The two leaders met again in May and for a third summit in September, when Moon travelled to Pyongyang. This new series of inter-Korean summits made possible new rounds of inter-Korean cooperation projects in culture and sport, as well as military confidence-building measures. However, the economic sanctions still in place hindered opportunities for substantial advancements in economic cooperation. The opening of North Korea towards the international community dominated also the foreign policy agenda of the two countries. For the first time in history, a North Korean leader met with a sitting American president, when Kim Jong Un met Trump in Singapore on 12 June, thanks mainly to the diplomatic mediation of South Korean President Moon Jae-in. After the summit, however, the diplomatic process stalled again over the practical steps towards denuclearisation and the corresponding measures from the US. The «diplomatic offensive» of North Korea was not limited to South Korea and the United States. In fact, Kim met with Chinese president Xi three times over the course of the year, in a successful attempt to revive the crucial alliance between Pyongyang and Beijing.
Marco Milani
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11585/776390
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