North Korea Makes Two Extraordinary Peace Gambits but Are They Real?

A man watches a television screen showing President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Thursday, demanding that Kim Jong Un's government "get their act together" or face extraordinary trouble. He said his previous "fire and fury" warning to Pyongyang might have been too mild. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

A man watches a television screen showing President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during a news program at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Thursday, Aug. 10, 2017. President Donald Trump issued a new threat to North Korea on Thursday, demanding that Kim Jong Un’s government “get their act together” or face extraordinary trouble. He said his previous “fire and fury” warning to Pyongyang might have been too mild. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)

 

As a father of three teenagers, I am more familiar than I have any desire to be with the “Hunger Games” trilogy. If you recall, in the last novel in the series, the hapless beta-male, Peeta Malark, is suffering from delusions created by the evil government. Eventually, whenever he thinks he remembers something, he starts asking Katniss–his girlfriend/pet owner–“real or not real.” SPOILER ALERT: Somehow Peeta does manage to get laid.

https://youtu.be/qFoUkll81N0

That is how I’ve started approaching news from Korea. I don’t read, speak, or understand Korean, so my knowledge is limited to what I read in American media (which is really bad when covering Korea) or Korean media that has been translated (and you are never sure of who is placing the story and why, but you know it is government approved). Is it real? Or not real?

These are the dominant stories today:

Denuclearization.

Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, plans to formally announce his willingness to denuclearize his country when he meets with President Moon Jae-in of South Korea this month, an official from the South said on Tuesday.

The statement is expected to be part of a joint declaration that the two leaders will adopt when they meet on April 27, said Mr. Moon’s chief of staff, Im Jong-seok. Negotiators from both Koreas have agreed on a rough framework for the joint declaration, he said.

Peace treaty:

South and North Korea are discussing plans to announce an official end to the military conflict between the two countries that are still technically at war, the Munhwa Ilbo newspaper reported, citing an unidentified South Korean official.

As I’ve written before, North Korea’s offers to denuclearize in the past have been code for “get out of South Korea.” So we don’t know what it means. We do know that it has been four months since the last launch and the last time North Korea failed to launch a missile in First Quarter was 2013.

What we also know is that North Korea has never before assented to negotiating with South Korea about a peace treaty. The party line since 1953 is that South Korea is a puppet state and real negotiations have to be with the US. If the peace treaty talks turn out to be real this will be significant no matter what happens on nukes.

And, of course, both stories rely upon a single source (possibly the same guy) inside the Moon administration which has a lot riding on the success of both meetings.

Having said that, if any one of these rumors is true then the calculus in Korea is permanently changed. If both are true, this is a seismic shift in Asia and Trump should get the Nobel Peace Prize.