The next act in the immensely consequential decades-long Korean nuclear drama takes place on Friday, when the two Koreas launch their much-anticipated summit in the tiny Potemkin village of Panmunjom that straddles the demarcation line separating the divided nation.
The stakes could not be higher. A successful Korean summit is an essential prerequisite and road map for an even more important summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump. If that meeting doesn’t take place, or goes off the rails, then forget about a peaceful resolution of the world’s most dangerous geopolitical confrontation. A failed inter-Korean summit would reignite fears the US could strike Pyongyang’s nuclear facilities, triggering a wider conflagration that would overshadow even the out-of-control Syrian conflict.
Almost half our exports go to northeast Asia and four of our five largest trading partners (China, Japan, the US and South Korea) would be seriously affected in the event of hostilities. As a member of the UN Command, and signatory to the 1953 armistice agreement, Australia has residual defence commitments to South Korea stemming from our direct involvement in the Korean war. If war breaks out again on the Korean peninsula, the government would come under pressure to deploy ships and aircraft to defend the South and evacuate Australian citizens.