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South Korea-North Korea-Russia Trilateral Cooperation for Peace and Prosperity on the Korean Peninsula

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North Korea’s nuclear development plans and missile tests led to a state of acute tension in 2017, escalating the risk of war. The tense situation took a sharp turn following the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games, followed by two inter-Korean summit meetings and the first in history meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States. These developments have improved relations between the two Koreas and are leading to substantial talks toward the denuclearization of North Korea. On April 27, 2018, the leaders of the two Koreas met for the first summit talks in 11 years, culminating in the Panmunjom Declaration in which they agreed on the dramatic improvement and development of inter-Korean relations, elimination of military tension and mutual non-aggression, and complete denuclearization and establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. In the second inter-Korean summit of the year held on May 27, 2018, the two leaders reached a consensus to work closely toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of a permanent peace regime. he South and North held inter-Korean high-level talks on June 1, in which it was agreed to establish a joint liaison office in Gaeseong, North Korea, and practical measures to implement the Panmumjom Declaration were discussed. South Korea becoming a full member of the Organization for Cooperation of Railways (OSJD) on June 7, 2018, was an important development as well. Despite seeking full membership to the Organization since 2015, the South had hitherto been blocked by North Korea’s veto votes. The virtuous cycle that began with these improvements in inter-Korean relations was continued with the first U.S.-North Korea summit in history. The leaders of North Korea and the U.S. met on June 12, 2018, in Singapore, releasing a joint statement agreeing to establish a new bilateral relationship, build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and to make joint efforts toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Chairman Kim Jong Un reconfirmed his commitment to the agreements made within the Panmunjom Declaration and pledged to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The historic summit between the two leaders was followed by subsequent measures on the part of North Korea – such as the release of three U.S. citizens, repatriation of U.S. soldiers’ remains, and the closure of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site and dismantlement of the Sohae engine missile testing site in Tongchang-ri – in return for which it called on the U.S. to lift North Korean sanctions and formally end the Korean War. The U.S., on the other hand, is maintaining its position that North Korea must first begin substantial measures toward complete denuclearization, and that the lifting of sanctions can only be considered after major progress has been seen toward denuclearization. The U.S. is particularly keen on securing a list from North Korea outlining its nuclear arsenal, and is yet to make its position clear on the issue of an end-of-war declaration, instead focusing on both talks and pressure tactics toward North Korea. When considering the delicate situation currently unfolding between the three nations following the summit meetings, it is clear that the Moon Jae-in government in South Korea must play a crucial role. However, inter-Korean relations are mired in complications caused by North Korea’s nuclear program and U.S. sanctions against North Korea, making it difficult to realize any substantial progress in economic cooperation projects with the North. As of yet, the New Economic Map of the Korean Peninsula and the New Northern Policy, initiatives announced by the Moon administration, remain at the initial stage of planning.

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