East Asia

Peace seems to be breaking out on the Korean Peninsula – the implications could be immense

The sight of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un embracing his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in and then US President Donald Trump, count as among the most remarkable diplomatic spectacles of the past decade. The agenda the two Korean leaders signed up to provides for an end to decades of division, hostility and the threat of a war that risked plunging the entire region into conflict. Trump’s summit perhaps made more history but less progress, resulting in only the vaguest of commitments from Kim. A journey has begun, but the destination remains unclear. What is certain is that the potential ‘unfreezing’ of the Korean conflict could have an enormous impact on the two countries most directly involved, on relations between the regional powers – China, the United States and Japan – that have been party in some form or other to the Korean impasse and on investors and businesses presented with new opportunities. Tensions will persist in East Asia, notably between China and Japan, and Beijing and Taipei. However, Kim’s ‘coming out’ has raised expectations that the two Koreas might at last live in peace.

• Will Kim abandon his nuclear weapons? Can his regime survive if he does?
• How ‘close’ can the two Koreas get and who, apart from themselves, are likely to be the beneficiaries?
• Would a reduced military threat from North Korea dissuade Japan from boosting its military?
• What do the developments in the Korean Peninsula mean for the relative influence of China and the United States in East Asia?