As the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea have come to a close and the media has started to move on from the Games, the relationship and communication between North Korea and South Korea, whose Olympic teams marched together at the opening ceremony, will hopefully continue. These developments reinforce that the Koreas can talk to one another without U.S. assistance, and it is certainly a good first step on the long and treacherous path towards peace in this era of addressing North Korea’s nuclear arsenal. If the Koreas do continue to talk to one another on increasingly higher levels, it is important that the U.S. allow the negotiations to continue on their own terms, and let the two Koreas figure out their own future.
Korean joint negotiations have always been rocky at best and have been occurring on and off since the momentous first meeting in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in 2000. Since then, South Korea has been inconsistent in their stance on negotiations, as their support often depends on the political faction in power and their views regarding reunification. For example, negotiations are cut off during more conservative South Korean administrations, like during that of the recently impeached Park Geun-hye. In contrast, currently sitting South Korean president Moon Jae-in and his progressive administration have advocated for negotiating new partnerships between the North and South and even possibly reuniting.
The U.S. keeps getting in the way of this. Mixed messages from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence (who attended the Opening Ceremony and sat in front of the Director of the Propaganda Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean Leader Kim Jong-un), have confused and perhaps even undermined the South Korean position. North Korea’s choice of Kim Yong-chol, a military hardliner and head of North Korean national intelligence, to lead the North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang closing ceremony appeared to be a response more to the Trump administration’s hard rhetoric rather than calls for peace by the South’s President Moon. In talks of reunification, which is a purely Korean issue for the benefit of the Korean peninsula, the U.S. should simply not take part.
Think of the U.S.’s track record in international interventions during the Cold War and into the present. Western intervention in the affairs of smaller nations has always led to military and political power imbalances, instability and, at its worst, failed states. The bloody conflict for capitalism in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, the Russian and American proxy war in Afghanistan, the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, the search for nonexistent “Weapons of Mass Destruction” in Iraq and this Korean conflict that resulted in a stalemate 65 years ago are all prime examples of failures in U.S. foreign policy. With such a history, there is no justification for the U.S. to involve itself in the issue of Korean reunification, at least under the current foreign policy.
It’s time for the U.S. to step down from its self-appointed post-WWII role of the “world’s policeman,” a job which they’ve done pretty poorly, and turn its focus more towards foreign policy issues that directly affect the states and territories of our country. How are we to be a role model for the world if we can’t even fix our own problems?