Hofstra University Professor of Law Julian Ku explains the likely outcomes and motivations of a peace treaty between North and South Korea. Following is a transcript of the video.
Julian Ku: These agreements have been reached before after long and painful negotiations and they have fallen apart before. So, the first expectation should be nothing will change because in the past nothing has changed.
If, for some reason, they do reach some sort of stable peace agreement, then I think we’ll see some reduction of the military assets on both sides. You need some pullback of the troops from the border.
The other big thing we’ll see is, and this could be, you know, the real change, is a much more back and forth, open travel between North Korea and South Korea. Already there are limited abilities for families in the South to visit families in the North, but what will be really dramatic is if anyone in the North can visit the South, which doesn’t happen in a legal sense right now. What seem kind of minor things, allowing people to visit each other, would be a really dramatic change and would change the whole dynamic of the Korean peninsula.
The Summit highlights that this is mainly a North Korean-South Korean thing, but Korea has always had outsiders involved in their internal politics and that’s not different here. And so, China and the United States both have their own interests. The United States’ interest I think is pretty clear. United States wants denuclearization, they want North Korea to give up their nuclear weapons completely, dismantle them so that they can’t restart it again.
China also wants denuclearization, so in theory everyone wants the same thing. But China also does not want to see North Korea become too far under the influence of South Korea or the United States because North Korea is a traditional ally of China, and also it’s a buffer state between South Korea and the United States. But other than that, China does actually want North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons as well. In a sense, everyone sort of has the same goal. It’s just China doesn’t have the same urgency as the United States does because North Korea is not threatening China, it’s threatening South Korea and the United States.
When we talk about changing the dynamic on the Korean peninsula so that South Korea, North Korea are more interconnected and become closer to each other, there I think China doesn’t fully support complete reconciliation. They’re happy to have reduction of tensions but they’re not happy to have North Korea become too close to the other countries.
It seems crazy to talk about, given where we were last year, where we were worried about President Trump starting a nuclear war with North Korea. But I think that it’s true that if somehow, North Korea was normalized in the sense that, say they gave up their nuclear weapons in a verifiable way so that the U.S. was satisfied, and they reached a peace arrangement where they normalize relations with South Korea, those two steps would be a massive change in international relations, changing the dynamic of northeast Asia. That’s worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. Then the only question is who deserves the credit and if it works out, it will be everyone. It will be China, it will be United States, it will be North Korea and South Korea most of all. And it would be remarkable if it did. But history tells us that it won’t happen.
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