Funny thing about history: you usually have a hard time realizing you’re watching a future history-book entry while it’s happening. A tragedy is a bit easier to notice: 9/11, Shock and Awe of Iraq in 2003, the death of Michael Jackson – all clear events that will no doubt make their way into a page (or chapter) of high school history texts. But sometimes we get the chance to watch the good stuff unfold in ways that would be unimaginable even months prior. Make no mistake, no matter how the summit in Singapore goes, the future of the North Korean and US bilateral relationship begins with the historic meeting, a meeting that may finally bring a formal end to a near-70 year war. And while I’ll always root for peace when there’s a chance, I’ve seen little discussion about the second and third order-of-effects from peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Kim Jong Un’s definition of denuclearization has changed several times over the last year. Talks bounced back and forth on whether “denuclearization” involves the removal of a US presence in South Korea. South Korea has stated that it wouldn’t want to reduce the US presence in the wake of peace, citing that our alliance is now greater than just the threat of North Korea. Kim has argued in the past that the Korean peninsula will always be nuclearized so long as a US military post is stationed there. This changed back in April, where, for the first time, Kim Jong Un dropped that requirement in advance of diplomatic talks with the South Korean president. Hopefully, this remains so in future negotiations, but there’s a wildcard in the mix that can change the discourse at the drop of a hat.
China has spent the last decade ramping up both their military and economic infrastructure in a bid to compete with the US as a global power. At the heart of this ramp-up are territorial claims over the South China Sea. The Chinese aren’t satisfied with the current division of territorial waters and has repeatedly laid claim to islands and oil resources that belong to Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and other SE Asian countries. Given the close ties between with North Korea, I find it hard to believe that China isn’t a part of these negotiations, and the fact that these talks have been framed as primarily between the US/South Korea and North Korea make me wonder if and what strings are being pulled behind the scenes.
While the effort for global peace is worth the price, it will take deft negotiating to ensure that our force-projection potential in the Western Pacific isn’t diminished throughout the peace talks. Closing military stations, diminishing training exercises, and ceding patrol routes to China should be avoided at all costs in the upcoming negotiations. These are the exact circumstances that may arise if North Korea perceives that the United States isn’t capable or willing of upholding a promissory peace (an opinion no doubt influenced by the US abandoning of the Iranian JPOA). In the meantime, let’s just hope that the Korean peoples might finally wake up without the distant, but audible, bays of war.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.