The Two Koreas Have Set a Model for American Diplomacy

A Road Map for peace between the two Koreas now exists. An agreement signed by both countries on September 19, 2018, provides a model that President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un may follow at Hanoi. The agreement, in turn, is similar to the Road Map that normalized relations between the United States and Vietnam.

The Korean Road Map provides detailed goals to implement the Panmunjom Agreement of April 2018: (1) secession of all hostile acts, (2) transformation of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) into a Peace Zone, (3) neutralizing the maritime boundary into a peace zone, (4) increased contacts, exchanges, and visits, (5) and a revitalized institutional framework for consultation between the two military forces.

A step-by-step process of mutual cooperation within the DMZ, which separates North from South Korea, was then established: (1) withdrawal of all guard posts, (2) withdrawal of all firearms, (3) joint recovery of soldiers missing in action, (4) minesweeping, (5) a joint road.

By the end of October, most steps were completed. Some 5,700 persons crossed the joint road during 2018. A train passed from South Korea to the northern border of North Korea to determine where repairs are needed.

The United Nations Command (UNC), the 17-nation military force that defended South Korea during the Korean War, has been transformed as a result. In October 2018, the UNC, headed by American General Vincent Brooks, met with representatives from the armies and North and South Korea. UNC is already neutral arbitrator between the two Koreas as they take steps in the DMZ.

Whatever happens in Hanoi must build on existing confidence-building measures between the two Koreas. Those critical of having the United States sign a peace declaration should remember that Washington never signed the 1953 Armistice. Neither did Pyongyang or Seoul. But two Koreas did so in April 2018, and the only holdout has been the United States. Afterward, a joint working group can be assigned to design an elaborate peace treaty.

The ultimate beneficiaries of continued de-escalation toward peace are the people of North Korea. Fearing American first-strike capability and occasional threats, Pyongyang has overprepared by treating the country as a potential war zone, considering even subtle dissent as disloyalty. When North Korea is less concerned about American aggression, unpleasant human rights conditions can improve for the people.

Political Scientist Michael Haas, a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, is the author of the recent United States Diplomacy with North Korea and Vietnam, with a Foreword by former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson. Please contact him at

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