Hopes were high at the start of 2019 that a diplomatic solution to the protracted North Korean nuclear crisis was finally within reach. The previous June, following his historic first meeting in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, United States President Donald Trump tweeted triumphantly that â€˜everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took officeâ€™ because â€˜there is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Koreaâ€™. 1 Kim was equally effusive in his January 2019 New Yearâ€™s address, saying that the Singapore summit had occasioned â€˜a dramatic turn in the bilateral relationship which was the most hostile on the earthâ€™ and that it had â€˜made a great contribution to ensuring peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the regionâ€™. 2 Meanwhile, South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha described 2019 as â€˜the starting year for a full-fledged Korean Peninsula peace processâ€™. 3 But a year can make a big difference. As 2019 was drawing to a close, Kim ascended Mount Paektu astride a white horse. Internationally, the media greeted this latest propaganda stunt with ridicule. But serious Korea-watchers expressed anxiety. 4 Kimâ€™s gesture was rich in symbolism. The mountain is reportedly the birthplace of Kimâ€™s father, Kim Jong-il. It is where Kimâ€™s grandfather, Kim Il-sung, is said to have ridden a white horse while fighting the Japanese. Some commentators suggested that Kim was attempting to associate himself with the ancient warrior kings of Korea, who also rode white stallions. 5 Most significantly of all, however, Kim has visited Mount Paektu prior to every one of his major policy decisions. Moreover, Kim had for months been proposing a foreboding end-of-year deadline for resolving the protracted Korea crisis. Hence, as Kim rode up his nationâ€™s tallest peak and with the deadline fast approaching, diplomacy seemed to hang in the balance and face a highly uncertain future.
|Title of host publication||Asia-Pacific Regional Security Assessment 2020|
|Editors||Dr Tim Huxley, Dr Lynn Kuok, Dr William Choong|
|Place of Publication||London United Kingdom|
|Publisher||The International Institute for Strategic Studies|
|Publication status||Published - 2020|