Inside Story

North Korea: Angling for peace?

We discuss why North Korea is reaching out to its southern neighbour - after months of threatening to wage war.

Last Modified: 08 Jun 2013 13:28
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The hotline between North and South Korea is once again up and running which means officials from the two countries can talk directly to one another. This comes after months of tensions and even threats of a nuclear war.

On Thursday, North Korea proposed to hold talks with South Korean officials to normalise commercial projects between the two nations.

With the almost infantile way that North Korea has been acting, there is no telling what their next move is going to be, but clearly there has been a failure on their part with their bluffing and rhetoric.

Han Sung Joo, a former South Korean foreign minister

That means re-opening the Kaesong joint industrial zone which was shut down by North Korea at the height of tensions in early April. Back then the United Nations imposed new sanctions against the North Korea for conducting its third nuclear test in February.

In December 2012, North Korea conducted its first successful long-range rocket launch. The UN Security Council responded the following month with a new round of sanctions.

Two months later, North Korea performed another nuclear test, prompting an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

Then in March, North Korea for the first time threatened to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States and South Korea. The statement came hours before the UN Security Council tightened financial sanctions against Pyongyang.

The same month, Pyongyang cut off the hotline between North and South Korea and said it had torn up the nations' ceasefire accord, signed in 1953.

But now the North is reaching out to the South. The two Koreas have not talked to each other since February 2011 and this recent development is raising hopes that the two sides might be moving towards a thawing of relations.

But why now? Is this a sign of peace on the troubled peninsula or another attempt by North Korea to stop further sanctions? How will re-establishing contact affect the region and international expectations from Pyongyang?

Inside Story, with presenter Hazem Sika, discusses with guests: Richard Hu, an associate professor at the University of Hong Kong; Victor Gao, the director at the China National Association of International Studies; Alessio Patalano, a lecturer in war studies at King's College London and director of the Asian Security and Warfare Research Group; and Han Sung Joo, a former South Korean ambassador to the US and former South Korean foreign minister.

"I think this latest development is an encouraging sign and it is a step in the right direction, however, this step in itself is not enough. I think we need to keep the eye on the major picture and on the ultimate goal - that is the complete denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula. Now in this sense, neither Russia nor China would ever recognise the DPRK as a nuclear power country and that has been made very clear to the DPRK leaders and they should have no false expectations that either Russia or China will course on this particular point."

- Victor Gao, the director at the China National Association of International Studies


Al Jazeera
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