In contemporaneity politics, it is typically the behind the scenes meetings whose content is never seen and rarely heard that move global events. And yet there are still certain public events whose magnitude is so strong that no amount of intensive behind the scenes manoeuvring can reverse the tide set in motion by such a public event.
When Donald Trump issued his invitation via Twitter for Kim Jong-un to meet with him at the DMZ, chances are that certain elements of the meeting were planned in advance. This should not be all too surprising seeing as Trump and Kim had recently exchanged letters (as they do with ever more frequency) that may well have contained the initial suggestion of an historic DMZ meeting.
The moment President Trump meets Chairman Kim at the DMZ and becomes the first sitting President to enter North Korea: pic.twitter.com/VwqGAEmmxz
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 30, 2019
Ultimately, whether the meeting was secretly scheduled in advance or whether it was the product of a spontaneous Tweet, the fact of the matter is that the assertive and gregarious Donald Trump, the young and enthusiastic Kim Jong-un and the serene but totally committed Moon Jae-in have always been men of destiny.
Donald Trump is the US president who broke the mould in terms of how an American leader can and should act. Moon had his initial election victory stolen from him in 2012 but achieved vindication in a 2018 election which vindicated his moderate and peaceful approach that set him apart from his disgraced predecessor. Finally, whilst Kim Jong-un was one of the youngest men in the world to become a head of state, at the beginning of his Chairmanship he remained an enigmatic figure. Since then, he has emerged as a good humoured, reform minded and peace minded leader who in the words of many foreigners who have met him, genuinely seeks the best for the Korean people.
When Kim took hold of Donald Trump’s hand and invited him across the most fortified border in the world into the DPRK, history was made and even more importantly a new and irreversible trend for peace in Korea has become all the more solidified. With Trump inviting Kim to visit him in the White House shortly after his historic walk into the DPRK, there is every chance that such a meeting could happen later this year or in very early 2020.
From the very first meeting between Kim and Moon and later those between Kim and Trump, there was a feeling of a peace process that meant something to each leader at an individual level. In this sense, the current peace process transcends the normal conditions of a political process and has developed into something in which three important men now have a very personal stake. This is all the more reason that none of these men are prepared to allow the peace process to fail.
The full flowering of this emotionally positive spirit could be readily observed both when Kim seemingly spontaneously invited Trump into his country and when the two men later sat down for a brief exchange of words with the press. As Donald Trump pointed out, Kim Jong-un normally does not do news conferences but he is clearly settling into his new role as an increasingly public figure in the historic peace process. Kim importantly remarked that without the strong personal bond between himself and Donald Trump, the progress made thus far would likely not have been possible. Trump had previously said something similar when he warned that the policies of his predecessor Barack Obama were putting the DPRK and USA on the road to war. In this sense, whilst few expected Donald Trump to become the first sitting US President to enter the DPRK and whilst few could have predicted Kim Jong-un’s eagerness to speak with the international press – both of these things just happened before the eyes of the world.
Trump & Kim & Moon pic.twitter.com/lKVu3duPTP
— Can (@JanVonC137) June 30, 2019
Whilst few were willing to make the seemingly “outlandish” prediction that the Berlin Wall would one day fall, in the late 1980s American composer and musician Frank Zappa appeared with Jay Leno on Johnny Carson’s famous Tonight Show and predicted that the infamous Wall would fall. Whilst it was popular among the pundits at the time to say that those dreaming of a united Berlin and united Germany were fools, history proved otherwise.
Today, whilst much of the media (particularly the liberal western media) remains equally pessimistic about Korea as it was about Europe in the late 1980s, there is a distinctly Berlin, November 1989 feeling about the events that are rapidly unfolding in Korea. That being said, a politically united Korea is next to impossible but throughout the peace process, if de-nuculearisation is met with a relaxing of sanctions against Pyongyang (a strategy favoured by South Korea and China), it is entirely possible that an ever more harmonious and inter-connected Korea can emerge which may one day even lead to the implementation of a one country – two systems model of governance.
For the time being, what is important to remember is that whilst the details of peace will naturally take time to consecrate, the spirit of peace and the goal of making this peace permanent remains unbreakable.
Kim Jong-un, Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in have proved themselves to be men of destiny. It therefore is extremely likely that in shorter order than expected, they will prove the sceptics wrong and deliver on what could justifiably be called the most important peace process since 1945.
It is high time for people to admit that when it comes to formally ending war in Korea and entering a new era of cooperation and connectivity, it is now merely a matter of ‘when’ rather than a matter of ‘if’.