Although the season for giving is upon us, some people seem quite upset.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un thunderously demands an early Christmas gift from the U.S. in the form of end of hostilities and sanctions relief. If not, he promises a bigger surprise. He visited their sacred mountain Baktu as if to consult the Oracles. He also said that he warmed up the rocket engines for the delivery of his surprise gift.
U.S. President Donald Trump snapped back demanding Kim Jong Un fulfill his promise to denuclearize, saying he himself had a bigger military and a bigger button. He also called on the South Korean President Moon Jae-in to give him a gift by increasing their yearly contributions to the alliance to $5 billion from under $1 billion now. His envoys stormed out of the room when South Korea demurred.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in seems to look at both and ask, “What about me? I’ve been waiting for the gift both of you promised me back in Singapore. I want my Peace Regime.”
Instead of waiting, which could be forever, President Moon should take the initiative and make an offer President Trump can’t refuse. He should offer not $5 billion but $2.5 trillion in the form of an annual $50 billion payment for 50 years.
Here’s the catch. In exchange, President Moon would ask the U.S. agree to a New Comprehensive Peace Regime consisting of the following:
Peace Treaty: All sides declare the Korean War over and consent to cease “hostile intentions and actions” against each other. To cement the peace, the U.S. and DPRK (the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea or North Korea) quickly open embassies and establish commercial and civilian exchanges. For good measure, the ROK (Republic of Korea or South Korea) and China can join them.
Demilitarized Korean Peninsula: The U.S. drops the all-for-nothing demand in favor of a more realistic step-by-step process with gradual sanctions relief. Going forward, all agree not to develop, produce, or host nuclear-capable or long-range strategic weapons and assets, either offensive or defensive, on land, sea, or air, in and around the Korean Peninsula within the territories of North and South Korea. DPRK eliminates or converts its nuclear and long-range missile infrastructure and inventories to non-military and civilian nuclear and space applications.
U.N. Backed Declaration of Korean Neutrality: To fill the security void created by demilitarizing the peninsula, the U.N. and the UNSC declare the Korean Peninsula a Global Peace Zone, effectively turning it into a neutral territory. This is how they do it: They pass a resolution guaranteeing the security of the peninsula and the two Koreas from any foreign military aggression and each other. The declaration requires the nullification of all bilateral and multilateral security agreements between the Koreas and other nations.
Reform and Open North Korea: Chairman Kim Jong Un agrees to expand and institutionalize the current marketizing reforms underway in North Korea. He opens DPRK up to trade, investment, and travel. He prioritizes human rights and moves toward greater political freedoms. To jump-start the North Korean economy, the U.S. and the UNSC reward Kim Jong Un with significant up front sanctions relief upon signing the Peace Treaty and agreeing to disarm. Remaining sanctions are lifted in steps following verification of specific milestones.
Normalize DPRK and ROK Relations: Along with signing onto the Peace Treaty, the two countries sign a Mutual Recognition Treaty through which they recognize each other’s sovereignty, call for independent political development, accept a decennial referendum on unification, and turn the DMZ and the west sea regions into jointly administered natural preserves.
U.N. Korea Verification Regime: The U.N. and UNSC establish the U.N. Korea Verification Regime (UNKVR) which has open access to all military and civilian nuclear, missile, and space installations on the Korean Peninsula. UNKVR also has the power to recommend sanctions to the UNSC on any country that violates the terms the peace and denuclearization agreements. The UN Human Rights Commission may continue to monitor human rights in both Koreas and, in cases of grave abuses, recommend ameliorative actions to the UNSC.
Would the U.S. agree? To be sure, a peninsular neutrality would eliminate a tremendous U.S. asset, which is the U.S.-ROK Alliance. But if it is accompanied with denuclearization, it could also be a boon for U.S. security.
First, North Korea increasingly threatens the U.S. mainland and its many interests in the Asia-Pacific region. The U.S. has failed to disarm North Korea precisely because it has failed to accept a Peace Treaty. A neutrality would be a way to protect ROK without the necessity of a threat induced alliance.
Second, a neutral peninsula would create a natural buffer between the U.S. and its more significant adversaries, China and Russia. The need for such a buffer was likely one of the key reasons for the original Korea division and why there can’t be peace on the Korean Peninsula as long as there are superpower rivalry around it. A declared state of neutrality perfects the buffer status. Disarmament as a prerequisite requirement would turn the Doomsday Clock back a few minutes for the world and the U.S.
Third, the extra $50 billion per year is not a small amount. That money can be used to reinforce existing U.S. bases in Japan, Guam, and other locations around the Pacific.
Would DPRK agree? Despite the risks of peace, North Korea has been asking for cessation of hostilities and normalization since the early 1970s. The unwillingness of the U.S. to accept the end of the Korean War has led to the current nuclear dilemma. Ending the Korean War will finally permit it to become a normal member of the international community. It might also permit the society to liberalize further.
Would ROK agree? Can it afford it? Sure. Fifty ($50) billion a year represents only about 3.3% of its present GDP. The burden is decreased by the fact that, like a mortgage on a house, it is paid over a long period of time. The burden would be further reduced by the huge peace dividend from ending the Korean War and being reconnected to Northeast Asia; it would no longer be an island.
And perhaps as important, as a modern democratic society, it would finally achieve full sovereignty after having been created only in 1948 and dependent on the U.S. for its security.
President Moon’s $2.5 trillion investment would be well spent.
Photo credit: President Donald J. Trump, Chairman of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Jong Un, and Republic of South Korea President Moon Jae-in talk together Sunday, June 30, 2019, outside Freedom House at the Korean Demilitarized Zone. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)