While over a hundred countries met in the United Nations in Geneva to discuss nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, South Korean president Moon and North-Korean president Kim embraced each other on the border between their countries. In a joint declaration, the two presidents promised, amongst other things, to finally end the Korean war. They also announced steps towards the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
This historic meeting shows the power of diplomacy in turbulent times. Late last year the tension between the United States of America and North Korea rose to a new high. North Korea tested nuclear weapons and president Trump responded with threatening twitter messages. The world held its breath. Any use of nuclear weapons by the US or North Korea would lead to millions of deaths, mostly among civilians, and would cause unspeakable human suffering.
Clever diplomacy in the past months by mainly South Korea’s president has led to renewed dialogue, and last Friday the first meeting between the presidents of both Korea’s in 10 years finally took place. We can therefore be cautiously optimistic about the negotiations that will take place in the coming year and that will hopefully lead to peace between both countries and the denuclearization of North Korea.
An important positive step both countries could take as part of their negotiations for peace and disarmament is to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). In the context of this treaty, which was adopted in the UN last year and has already been signed by over 50 countries, both states can come to concrete agreements with each other and the relevant international organizations about the controlled and verified elimination of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal.
Although nuclear weapons states often refer to the difficult international situation as a reason to not eliminate their nuclear arsenals, the Korea’s show that especially when tensions are high, the possibilities for diplomacy are greatest. Historically, agreements about nuclear disarmament have been achieved at times where relations where most strained.