Following regulator approvals in the UK on Monday the 21st of August 2023 and effective approval in the US, Broadcom confirmed that it plans to officially acquire VMware for $61bn on October 30th, 2023.
‘Our cherished hopes are for unification, even in dreams we are for reunification’ – these words ring out in the opening lines to a sentimental reunification song, taught to many young South Koreans in their early days of schooling. Its sombre melody carries with it decades of hardship that this divided nation has had to endure, and a hope that the Korean Peninsula may someday see peace. While many approaches have been made to reach that end, few have succeeded in making tangible progress. South Korea’s recently elected President Yoon Suk-yeol promises to change that through his ‘Audacious Initiative’, though the North seems reluctant to negotiate.
Announced during the President’s National Liberation Day speech on August 15th, the ‘Audacious Initiative for a denuclearised, peaceful and prosperous Korean Peninsula’ is the Yoon Administration’s multi-phase approach to finally achieving the North’s denuclearisation. Its first phase, pre-negotiation, is already in motion – it seeks to use additional sanctions, deterrence of nuclear threats, and strategic cooperation with western allies to leave North Korea no choice but to negotiate. Speaking at the Korean Peninsula Peace Forum on November 15th, Counsellor Park Hyung-chul of the ROK’s UK Embassy affirmed that its crucial to make the North realise that their nuclear arsenal is a liability, not an asset.
Phase two, negotiation, will aim to put in place a holistic roadmap for denuclearisation, in exchange for economic and infrastructural aid. As a sign of goodwill, the Yoon Administration promises to allow certain sanction exemptions even before negotiations begin, so long as the DPRK shows sincerity. It proposes permitting some export of the North’s natural resources, allowing it to purchase necessities like food or medicine through the Resources-Food Exchange Program. These measures can expand under phase three, once the North commits to its denuclearisation, including aid with the modernisation of its power, agriculture, health, and finance industries.
North Korea, however, is showing little interest in negotiations. Kim Yo-jong—sister of Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un denounced the Initiative just a few days after its announcement, calling it ‘the height of absurdity’ and citing its disregard for Pyongyang’s interests. She went as far as to condemn President Yoon himself, denying any possibility of dialogue as long as he is in office. What followed was an increase in North Korean military drills, the intensity of which has only kept rising.
On November 17th, as a reply to joint South Korea-US military exercises, the DPRK fired off a ballistic missile into South Korea’s neighbouring waters, followed by warnings of ‘fiercer military responses’. Just a day later the country successfully launched what is believed to be their newest intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), which landed roughly 210km off Japan’s western coast. The Hwasong-17 is described by North Korean officials as ‘the strongest strategic weapon in the world’ and is estimated to have a range exceeding 15,000km – enough to cover the entire mainland US. This comes at a time of increased worries over North Korea’s potential 7th nuclear test, which experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency believe to be imminent.
Despite this, the topic of further sanctions remains a divisive one, particularly at the UN. China and Russia—two of the five countries holding veto power in the Security Council —have begun consistently opposing any attempts at condemning the DPRK’s actions. At an emergency meeting of the Council, held on November 21st, both countries accused the US of placing too much pressure on Pyongyang and failing to address its concerns, arguing that sanctions would only fuel more conflict – a sentiment later echoed by North Korea’s Kim Yo-jong.
In lieu of a divided Security Council, South Korea and its allies still want to pursue independent sanctions – a measure which could likely have inverse consequences. Not only are China and Russia allies of the North – they were also key participants in the original six-party talks on peaceful denuclearisation, and still maintain a relatively large influence on the country today. Ignoring their concerns would not only further alienate major world powers at a time of increased global tensions but also disincentivise them from being mediators in potential North-South negotiations. In order to create a strategic environment and effectively put pressure on Pyongyang, the original participants of the six-party talks must present a unified front.
Indeed, even the United States admit the leverage that these countries have over North Korea, with President Biden additionally insisting that China has an obligation to try to dissuade it from further nuclear tests. Unfortunately, with tensions high over Ukraine and Taiwan, China and Russia need all the allies they can get – particularly ones that are armed with nuclear weapons and have a decades-long hatred of the west. To them, denuclearising North Korea simply presents no strategic incentive at the moment, and could even weaken their influence in the region.
South Korea must proceed with caution. By increasing specifically western pressure on North Korea, the Audacious Initiative risks providing China and Russia with a higher stake in shielding Pyongyang from the consequences of aggression. In the worst case, the Korean Peninsula could eventually become just another chip in a dispute between great powers – a fate worryingly similar to the origins of its division. For now, it seems that the hopes for peace that so many young Koreans sang about will remain just that – hopes.
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