Thank Moon Jae-in for giving peace a chance

The dramatic photo of Kim Jong-un and South Korean president, Moon Jae-in, locked in a brotherly embrace that flashed around the world on Sunday was remarkable, as it would have been unthinkable not long ago. For the first time in decades there is good chance the military stand-off on the peninsula may be coming to an end.

The two deeply divided states that make up what was only ever a briefly united and independent state between 1895 and 1910 have endured a rocky history since the end of World War II.

That marked the end of 35 years of Japanese domination and resulted in the peninsula being divided into northern and southern zones along the latitude 38 degree parallel.

Territory to the north was occupied by Soviet troops; that to the south by the Americans. The goal, hammered out at the Yalta conference, was for the establishment of a unified and independent, democratically elected, Korean Government.

That hope died with the proclamation of a "Republic of Korea", with its capital in Seoul on August 15, 1948, under the presidency of right wing nationalist Syngman Rhee.

On September 9, 1948, the Korean People's Democratic Republic was proclaimed under the leadership of Korean-born Soviet Red Army captain Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of Kim Jong-un, with its capital in Pyongyang.

The Korean war, which claimed between three-and-a-half and four million lives, was the direct result.

It ended in a cease fire on July 27, 1953. No peace treaty has ever been signed.

The cold war between the two states, and the precarious policy of co-existence which is essential to the safety of more than 75 million Koreans on both sides of the border, has nearly exploded into open conflict many times in the past 65 years.

This has never seemed more likely than over the past two years. North Korea's determination to develop nuclear weapons, and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying them to the U.S., has posed a grave threat to world peace.

That push met with ever-tightening economic sanctions against the so-called "rogue state".

A remarkable thaw in north-south relations, which ironically began at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in South Korea earlier this year, set the stage for the first ever one-on-one talks between a North Korean leader and a U.S. President, Donald Trump.

It delivered its first fruits earlier this month when Trump's Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, returned to America with three U.S. citizens who had been detained by Pyongyang for between one and three years.

While there could still be many stumbles, those talks, scheduled for Singapore on June 12, now look as if they will proceed.

If they do then the person who deserves the credit is Moon Jae-in, the apparently unflappable and perennially patient South Korean President. He has done more to persuade Kim Jong-un to come in from the cold than any of his predecessors.

If the north and the south can build on that success the long delayed dream of a united and prosperous Korean nation may one day come into being.

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