Negotiating world peace
Even die-hard optimists would be rubbing their eyes in disbelief now that North Korea is willing to talk to the United States about surrendering its nuclear weapons. But that is precisely what transpired in Pyongyang on Tuesday when a high powered delegation came visiting from Seoul for unprecedented meetings with their Northern counterparts. The fact that a very cordial Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, decided to participate, seemed to make all the difference. By the time the talks concluded, he agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue with South Korea. Pyongyang has expressed willingness to talk to the United States "in an open-ended dialogue to discuss the issue of democratisation and to normalise relations with North Korea." The very fact that something as unbelievable could transpire has, understandably, made not just the residents of the Korean Peninsula but the whole world sit up and take notice. Indeed, till the final preparations for the Winter Olympics could get underway, tensions had escalated to a point of no return. For the present, they must all have heaved a tremendous sigh of relief. The confidence of President Moon Jae-in in banking on diplomacy that started on a perfect note during the Winter Olympics seems to have paid off. As matters stand, North Korea clarified that it had no reason to retain nuclear weapons if "the military threat to North Korea is resolved" and the country's security can be guaranteed. It is, sans doubt, a startling statement from a nation that only months ago declared it could wipe the United States off the face of the Earth. This, indeed, is Kim Jong-un stepping on the peace offensive gas pedal. The Trump administration has said that it is willing to negotiate with North Korea if it puts denuclearisation on the table. The announcement represents a significant diplomatic accomplishment for South Korean President Moon Jae-in. As a part of the dialogue, the two Korean leaders would hold a summit next month, the first of its kind in more than a decade. The April summit will be held at the Panmunjom Peace House on the South Korean side of the demilitarised zone that divides the two countries. Pyongyang and Seoul will also open a communication hotline that will enable Kim and Moon to speak directly. It is believed to be the first time that the young North Korean leader has ever met with an official from South Korea, since taking power in 2011. It was now up to the negotiators to seize the opportunity presented by the summit and the potential talks with the US. Pyongyang's intention to denuclearise and refrain from testing during talks simply reiterates its longstanding position in principle, (they) are conditional statements and dubious, but saying them publicly nevertheless gives Washington and Seoul something to work with. That's where good negotiations come in. The US and South Korea had postponed joint military exercises, which Pyongyang views as hostile, during the Winter Olympics but the drills had been expected to resume after the Paralympics end later this month. It is not clear whether Tuesday's developments will alter that. Kim told the South Korean delegation he "understands" Seoul's position on the drills. "Our stance on the joint military drills is that it is hard to postpone the exercises again or suspend them and there is no justification for doing so. But Kim said that he understands the South's stance," an official in President Moon's administration said. Now, it is only to be hoped that till the two Korean leaders meet next month, the unpredictable and temperamental tweets of the US President do not put a spanner in the peace initiatives. True, the sanctions that had been heaped on North Korea must have started biting hard but this is a time to wait and watch. During an Oval Office meeting with his Swedish counterpart on Tuesday, the US President said, "What we are looking for is concrete steps toward denuclearisation. I think that their statement and the statements coming out of South Korea and North Korea have been very positive. That would be a great thing for the world. So, we'll see how it all comes about." North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has also agreed to refrain from conducting nuclear and missile tests while engaging in dialogue with the United States. Sense and sensibility have, indeed, triumphed over pride and prejudice for the present.