Thu, Aug 02, 2018 - Page 9 News List

When to end the war? N Korea, US at odds over path to peace

By Josh Smith  /  Reuters, SEOUL

Washington’s reluctance to declare an end to the Korean War until after North Korea abandons its nuclear arsenal might put it at odds not only with Pyongyang, but also with allies in South Korea.

The 1950 to 1953 Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a peace treaty, leaving the US-led UN forces technically still at war with North Korea.

Friday last week marked the 65th anniversary of the truce, which was commemorated by the UN Command in a ceremony in the fortified demilitarized zone that has divided the two Koreas since the war.

North Korean veterans of the war, which left more than 1.2 million dead, gathered in Pyongyang for a conference.

In their April summit, the leaders of North and South Korea agreed to work this year with the US and China, which also played a major role in the war, to replace the armistice with a peace agreement.

In June, US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un signed a statement saying they would seek “to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity,” using the initials of the North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Kim has broadly committed to the “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” if the US and its allies drop their “hostile” policies, and the North has made clear it sees an official end to the state of war as crucial to lowering tensions.

However, many experts and officials in Washington fear that signing a peace deal first could erode the international pressure they believe led Kim to negotiate.

It could also endanger the decades-long US military alliance with South Korea and might undermine the justification for the US troops based on the peninsula.

“Broadly speaking, one side wants denuclearization first, normalization of relations later, and the other wants normalization of relations first, then denuclearization later,” International Crisis Group senior adviser Christopher Green said.

North Korea has said it has taken steps to halt its nuclear development, including placing a moratorium on missile and nuclear bomb testing, demolishing its only known nuclear test site and dismantling a rocket facility.

US officials have praised the moves, but remain skeptical.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday last week told the US Congress that North Korea was continuing to produce fuel for nuclear bombs.

A spokesperson for the US Department of State said that while “peace on the Korean Peninsula is a goal shared by the world,” the international community would not accept a nuclear-armed North Korea.

“As we have stated before, we are committed to building a peace mechanism with the goal of replacing the armistice agreement when North Korea has denuclearized,” the spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement.

Pyongyang has in recent weeks renewed calls for a declaration of the end of the war, calling it the “first process for peace” and a key way the US could add heft to its guarantees of security.

“The adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in the light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations between the DPRK and the US,” North Korean state media said in a statement on Tuesday last week.

After Pompeo visited Pyongyang in June for talks, state media quoted a spokesman for the North Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs criticizing the US delegation for not mentioning the idea of a peaceful regime.

This story has been viewed 3606 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top