PICTURED: Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) from the South Korean side. PC: Daniel Oberhaus. CC 4.0.
SEOUL, South Korea. December 29th, 2021. In a press conference, South Korea’s chief diplomat announced that Seoul and D.C. “effectively have agreed” on a draft declaration to end the Korean War which despite being waged in 1950-53, never made it beyond an armistice.
“Our government views that an end-of-war declaration is a crucial step that we must go through in the process of achieving complete denuclearization and a lasting peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula,” Minister Chung Eui-yong said. “Our government views that an end-of-war declaration provides a very useful opportunity to resume dialogue in a current deadlock in talks with North Korea”.
Since the Trump Administration’s self-scuppered attempts to bring North Korea to the negotiating table in 2019, there has been almost no dialogue between North and South, but current president Moon Jae-in has always strongly favored as much diplomacy as possible, with denuclearization, and even reunification, his ultimate goal.
In July, communications were restored between North and South, a move which Pyongyang described as “a big stride in recovering the mutual trust and promoting reconciliation”.
Chung’s statement comes a day after U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington had “no hostile intent” toward Pyongyang and is “prepared to meet without precondition”.
On December 13th, President Moon himself said the U.S., North Korea and China had come to a “deal in principle” to end the Korean War, and while not an ultimate goal, it is something he believes would create “significant dialogue momentum”.
A ticking clock
Despite Price’s openness, Yonhap News received no comment from the offices of State or the National Sec. Advisor Jake Sullivan, about Minister Chung’s descriptions of a Draft Declaration.
Moon’s presidency ends next May, and he is determined to make progress on talks before its terminus. Sullivan however has expressed differences in “perspectives on the precise sequence or timing or conditions for different steps,” regarding how to end the war.
“The United States remains committed to achieving lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula through dialogue and diplomacy with the DPRK (North Korea),” a State Department official told Yonhap News in an email.
“To this end, we will continue to seek engagement with the DPRK as part of a calibrated, practical approach in order to make tangible progress that increases the security of the United States, our allies, and our deployed forces,” the official added.
In September, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kin Jong-un, released a statement favoring the idea of the war’s end.
“We have discussed the end of war declaration at several opportunities in the past since we have appreciated of the necessity and meaning of the [declaration], which can be the beginning of the establishment of a system to ensure peace on the Korean Peninsula,” she said, according to Antiwar.
The U.S. has an inglorious and recent history of undermining its own attempts at diplomacy with the DPRK, notably when the former National Sec. Advisor John Bolton, along with the administration’s position, told DPRK diplomats the U.S. favored and would want to see denuclearization along the “Libyan model,” referring to the now-deceased dictator Muammar Ghaddafi’s relinquishing of his nuclear arsenal.
This enraged the Koreans who pointed out that Ghaddafi was then targeted by unilateral regime change by Washington ending in his death.