Is the Korean Peninsula about to experience peace? And will peace between North Korea and its neighbors prevent World War iii?
For decades, the rogue dictatorship of North Korea has posed a unique and dangerous threat to its neighbors and even to the United States. It has developed and tested nuclear weapons and missiles that can strike South Korea, Japan and potentially the entire mainland of the United States.
Its leaders had openly threatened to annihilate U.S. cities. Current dictator Kim Jong-un issued deadly threats: “The entire United States is within range of our nuclear weapons; a nuclear button is always on my desk.” “The United States must choose! It’s up to you whether the nation called ‘the United States’ exists on this planet or not,” and, after test-launching a missile: “The American [expletive] would not be very happy with this gift sent on this July 4 anniversary.” He called United States President Donald Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” that he would “tame … with fire,” and one of his top military generals called the president “a guy bereft of reason.” And that is all just within the past 12 months.
Then Kim agreed to meet President Trump for a historic meeting in Singapore on June 12, and the two men greeted each other on friendly terms and signed a joint statement that reads, “Kim Jong-un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”
The meeting was historic—yet the joint statement is somewhat vague. Still, the fact there is a joint statement is amazing—yet North Korea has been deceitful about ending its nuclear program before. There are many unknowns. But Bible prophecy indicates that this summit will, in fact, bring more peace—temporarily.
Not the Spark for World War III
When tensions were hottest last summer, many commentators warned that a nuclear World War iii could start. The Trumpet looked at the Bible’s prophecies and took a different view.
In “Does Bible Prophecy Say North Korea Could Trigger World War III?”, Jeremiah Jacques showed how prophecy reveals there is, in fact, a nuclear war coming, but that the spark that ignites it will not be North Korea. The improved relations between the United States and North Korea support that analysis. (Read “Does Bible Prophecy Say North Korea Could Trigger World War III?” to see the nuclear scenario as explained in prophecy.)
Prophecy does provide a perspective you cannot gain from hearing the speeches, reading the agreement, or listening to the reporting on the Singapore summit. And it does suggest that this move in a peaceful direction is not an illusion.
25 Million Reasons for Hope
Contemplating these events, it is important to recognize just how terrible life is for the people of North Korea. As Jeremiah Jacques wrote in our February Trumpet issue: “Life for most of the country’s 25 million citizens is a slow-motion nightmare. One out of every hundred is imprisoned, mostly on trumped-up charges of treason. Prisoners regularly suffer abuse and torture. Even ‘free’ citizens live in grim squalor. The average North Korean lives on $25 to $30 per month. More than three quarters of North Koreans are starving. One out of every three children is severely malnourished, to the point of stunted growth.
“And the people are not allowed to leave. Fences and walls surround the nation. Soldiers open fire on people who try to escape. Anyone caught is killed or tortured. And if one individual attempts escape—whether he is successful or not—authorities often brutally punish everyone in his family, including small children.
“The regime also controls information. Every word that is printed in any book or newspaper must be approved by the government. Practicing religion is a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment or death. Every word spoken on radio or tv is censored by or actually written by the regime. The government uses its grip on information to lie to and brainwash its people: This country is paradise, better than any nation on Earth. People in all other countries are racially inferior savages who are far poorer than you. Your leader is a god—the only god, in fact. You should worship and bow to him. You are infantile, and you need his benevolent guidance.”
No other country on Earth is so brutal and backward. No other regime is so inhumane and murderous. Many observers viewed President Trump meeting with Kim Jong-un as an appalling legitimization of his deplorable dictatorship. One can understand why, when you see Kim treated like some kind of hero in Singapore.
However, getting North Korea to denuclearize, to reconcile with South Korea, and to open its economy could allow a bit of sunlight from the outside world to shine on the North Koreans. Perhaps Kim Jong-un, who was educated in Switzerland, is more open to Westernization and greater freedoms than his father and grandfather, who ruled before him.
This would be cause for genuine celebration for the sake of those 25 million people. This possibility brings greater meaning to this statement from President Trump in his press conference after the summit: “Our eyes are wide open, but peace is always worth the effort, especially in this case.”
It is true that the agreement Trump and Kim signed was very light on specifics regarding denuclearization. It includes no timetable. It says nothing about the effort being “verifiable” or “irreversible.” In this way, the deal looks similar to other agreements North Korea has signed over the years with promises to denuclearize—promises North Korea has broken.
However, if peace is possible, it must start somewhere. And President Trump is portraying this face-to-face meeting as the first step in a longer process.
And there are factors suggesting that this time is different. Kim Jong-un has been making some unprecedented moves. Just weeks ago, he crossed into South Korea, the first time a North Korean leader has done so since the Communist north and the democratic south split into separate countries. He agreed to formally end the Korean War by year’s end, and he committed to “complete denuclearization” with no strings attached.
This may be another ruse, but other factors suggest it may be something more.
Keep Your Eye on China
What motivated Kim Jong-un to meet with South Korea’s president and then with America’s president?
Remember that before his outreach to South Korea and the U.S., Kim’s first foreign trip since assuming power in 2011 was a surprise visit to China, on March 25. It was only after that historic meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping that Kim began reaching out to America and South Korea with offers of peace.
Then, on May 7, Kim met with President Xi in China for the second time. Right after that, Kim began retracting all those olive branches he had offered. President Trump canceled the June 12 summit, before subsequently restoring it.
How much is China dictating North Korea’s foreign policy?
China has been propping up the North Korean regime for decades, and as Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry has brought out, it has long used North Korea as a tool to provoke, divert and distract the U.S., while it gradually increases its own power within Asia.
Some analysts view the North’s turn toward peace as marking a shift in China’s tactics—but hardly a change in its overall strategy. Looking at the summit in this light, one can see how China can still use North Korea for its ends even if it denuclearizes and commences a more sane relationship with the United States.
At the Singapore summit, what tangible concession did President Trump make? He agreed to halt military exercises—what he called “war games”—with South Korea. He also mentioned the possibility of pulling American troops out of South Korea.
This is definitely a development China favors. Last year, China and Russia proposed what was called a “freeze for freeze” deal: North Korea would suspend its nuclear and missile programs if the U.S. would end military exercises with South Korea. At the time, both North Korea and the U.S. rejected the plan. Now, both nations agreed to it on their own.
China was the “one clear winner” of the Trump-Kim summit, according to Quartz: “The plan outlined in the two leaders’ joint statement turns out to be exactly what Beijing wants” (June 12).
Indeed, China said it is pleased with the summit. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that after decades of antagonism between North Korea and the United States, “that the two countries’ highest leaders can sit together and have equal talks, has important and positive meaning, and is creating a new history. China, of course, supports it.”
China wants to see America leave South Korea and its influence in Asia diminish. Perhaps it has come to view peace with North Korea as the best way to achieve this.
America’s dealings with North Korea are significant, but what you really need to watch is China.
Over the past year, with all the back-and-forth drama between the U.S. and North Korea, China has continued its military activities in the South China Sea. China disregarded the findings of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and kept building islands. It coaxed the Philippines further away from its relationship with the U.S. The U.S. Navy presence on Okinawa shrank at the same time that the Chinese Army’s presence grew. America’s influence in the Western Pacific is decreasing as China’s grows.
Perhaps North Korea and especially China are willing to give President Trump a short-term “victory” in the interest of advancing their own long-term interests.
As the U.S. Naval Institute wrote just before the Singapore summit, “Positively influencing the denuclearization of North Korea is an intelligent, tactical move that could go a long way toward achieving one of China’s long-term, strategic objectives of diminishing U.S. influence in the region, further isolating Taiwan from Western influence, and establishing itself as a superpower on the world stage” (June 8).
Even last year’s missile tests and nuclear development may have been part of this strategy, as they not only improved North Korea’s capabilities, but also “created an international appetite for a nonmilitary solution without overt Chinese involvement,” the Naval Institute speculated. At the right moment, these nations capitalized on that. Seeking trade concessions and a diminished American presence on the Korean Peninsula, “[n]either Beijing nor Pyongyang may have to bargain for these concessions as budgets and regional and domestic political pressure do the work for them—another example of the long game. With U.S. forces diminished or absent from the Korean Peninsula and Chinese ties strengthened with the Philippines, this move would spell the eventual death of Taiwan’s relationship with the West” (ibid).
It is difficult to say exactly how this will play out. But this could be the end of the era when North Korea served to provoke and distract America, and the beginning of the era when North Korea integrates into the rest of Asia as China consolidates its power, unifying much of Southeast Asia under its lead.
If the United States uses reconciliation with North Korea as a reason to draw down troops in Southeast Asia, China will be able to dominate even more than it already does.
Thus, events that flow from the Singapore summit may well lead to greater peace—in the short term. But it could also be a major step toward the fulfillment of the Bible’s prophecies of a coming Asian superpower, dominated by Russia and China, a superpower that will be a major combatant in the coming nuclear World War iii.