Between the two Koreas, an urgent rapprochement

For decades, the two Koreas, theoretically still in a state of war, have gone through phases of confrontation and rapprochement. Since the announcement, made jointly by the North and the South, of the reestablishment of their communication channels on July 27, the anniversary date of the cessation of hostilities in the Korean War (1950-1953) – following the signing of an armistice which was never followed by a peace treaty – the peninsula is entering a new phase of “Restoration of mutual trust”, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said.

The diplomatic issues underlying the inter-Korean rapprochement are important, because it could pave the way for a resumption of dialogue between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). In 2018, advances in the North-South dialogue greatly facilitated the first summit between President Donal Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. For now, the prospect of a resumption of dialogue between the United States and the DPRK remains unclear.

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On the other hand, what is clearer is the urgency, felt in the North as in the South, to relaunch the inter-Korean dialogue, broken off in June 2020 following the dynamiting, by the Pyongyang regime of the liaison office between the two Koreas, located in Kaesong, DPRK. Were these reprisals against the South, held responsible by Pyongyang for the failure of talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un during their second summit, in Hanoi, in February 2019? In part. The DPRK was especially frustrated by Seoul’s freezing of inter-Korean projects following the fiasco of the second summit.

Non-renewable term

Balloons loaded with leaflets against the regime launched from the South by activists were the pretext for Pyongyang’s mood movement against the symbol of inter-Korean detente. Subsequently, communications between neighbors were not materially severed, but the North refused to respond to calls from Seoul. And relations between the two Koreas had fallen to their lowest level, while in 2018, their leaders had met three times.

Now, time is running out. The non-renewable mandate of President Moon, which has made North-South rapprochement the hobbyhorse of his policy, ends in March 2022. Weakened by electoral setbacks and declining popularity, he seeks to save what little l be part of his big project “Lasting peace on the peninsula”, in order to strengthen the chances of a candidate of the same political tendency as him in the presidential election.

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