North Korea and the United States must work harder to achieve peace

After 68 years of war, recent interactions between the United States and North Korea, which culminated in the historic first meeting between each country’s respective leaders, have become romanticized by world observers, but it is important to remember that millions of lives hang in balance.

President Donald Trump may be trying to ease the tensions he helped create or score a political victory before midterm elections, but he and his team fumbled much of the tumultuous buildup to the meeting on June 12 and probably made too many concessions

The Korean Peninsula has known nothing but war for decades; Koreans have grown accustomed to bloodshed.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in was elected because of the looming fear of war.

Following a government that took a hard-line approach toward the North, Southerners grew tired of failed attempts to repel the North with tough words and simulated their own military operations.

On the other hand, war is easy. The South — with American training and support — holds a superior military edge and would win any conflict between the two Koreas rather easily.

However, war is never a simple zero-sum game, for there are winners and losers within the larger outcome.

Koreans in the South sympathize greatly with their Northern brethren. They are cognizant enough to separate the government’s actions from their nonconsenting citizens.

The South can’t justify the annihilation of the North; it would presumably result in the death of millions of innocents.

Less than 50 miles from the Southern capital Seoul — with a population of 10 million people — sits thousands of Northern artillery, capable of wreaking havoc in a short duration of time.

No one ever wants war, but achieving peace is not as simple as holding a single meet-and-greet. Trump may not even be aware of what he has stumbled into, as complex international issues steeped in a labyrinth of history do not appear to be his strongest suit.

However, we should not be condemning Trump’s attempt at peace despite how unorthodox, as it is only the beginning.

It may be difficult for Americans to realize that this complex issue is not about human rights or American security. At stake is a much greater historical reality: a Korean Peninsula and wider region that has not known peace for thousands of years.

After the chaos of Chinese inner-turmoil, Japanese imperialism and currently the inter-Korean standoff, East Asian harmony is within grasp for the first time in years. For decades, an American solution of bringing peace to East Asia involved either a North Korean military overthrow or an ideological defeat.

After the historic meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the United States has tacitly acknowledged a future in East Asia involving a communist North Korea; this was the first domino that needed to fall for any peace to advance.

Twice before North Korea has reneged on its international commitments to denuclearize. History would imply that the North sees no future in East Asia without nuclear weapons at its disposal.

However, the North is not irrational for the country realizes that its nuclear weapons are the final obstacle toward meaningful peace.

If each country truly wants to end the hostilities, then it is attainable. South Koreans have been waiting 68 years, so the rest of the world must be patient as well.

The thaw between sworn enemies will take time and may even have to fall apart once or twice to realize how close they have come, but it will be worth it. Peace is difficult, but achievable.

June 25, 2018

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Salvatore Gagliardi

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