After three weeks of tit for tat action and reaction, a mega-dose of saber rattling, a North Korean deadline to war and three days of emergency high-level negotiations in an abandoned town near the DMZ, the North and South have come to an agreement that will supposedly deescalate the blazing military and political tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
Negotiations began Saturday after North Korea’s deadline for South Korea to turn off cross-border loudspeaker broadcasts came and went. Top officials from both sides, including Kim Kwan-jin, South Korea’s senior national security adviser, and Vice Marshal Hwang Pyong-so, the highest ranking officer in the North Korean military apparatus under Kim Jong-un, sat down behind closed doors in the Demilitarized Zone in an attempt to stave off all-out war.
After three days, the talks ended up coming to some kind of fruition once the North agreed to apologize for instigating the destabilizing course of events, stating it regretted that two of South Korea’s soldiers were injured in the mine blast along the DMZ on August 4th. At the same time, South Korea agreed to end its loudspeaker broadcasts. Both sides wartime posture is also said to be quickly returned to normal as a result of the deal.
During the talks, North Korea had moved throngs of artillery to its border that is already bristling with cannons and rockets, and 70 percent of its submarine fleet had left port. Meanwhile, the South flew mock bombing runs along the border and recalled six of its fighters participating in Red Flag Alaska, the massive international aerial warfare training event that the USAF puts on at its Alaskan air bases a few times a year.
Other South Korean forces were mobilized as well, including P-3 Orions sub hunting aircraft to attempt to locate North Korea’s submarine force, and major reinforcements were sent to their wartime garrisons if they were not already going through combat drills or exercising with their American counterparts.
If anything else, these talks show just how absurd things have become on the Korean Peninsula and how lightly near-total destruction for both sides seems to be taken until it is almost at hand. Going to war over wanting an apology or because of loudspeakers transmitting propaganda along what already is a war zone sounds a lot like two old suburban neighbors that have hated each other for so long that they they can’t even remember why they started to in the first place. The whole situation is as sad as it is alarming, especially considering the U.S. still has 30,000 troops there.
Maybe the fact that key players from both sides sat in a room for days and successfully deescalated the situation will somehow impact future relations for the better, but in the near term the same old powder keg exists, albeit the match has been withdrawn a few inches from its fuse.
Photos via AP
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