The leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) are engaging in peace efforts, which have been met with skepticism from other countries, including the United States.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has repeatedly expressed willingness to give up nuclear weapons and was interested in building new relations with Washington, according to a Sept. 21 New York Times article.
“He said he wanted to achieve complete denuclearization as soon as possible and focus on economic development,” Moon told the Times.
Prior to denuclearization, however, Kim wants to secure a joint statement declaring an end to the 1950-1953 Korean War, which was never formally ended with a peace treaty. Instead, combat was paused with a truce in 1953. During the war, American-led United Nations forces defended the South from the Communist troops of North Korea and China. Although fighting ended decades ago, the conflict left the Korean Peninsula divided.
“The Koreas are technically at war; there has been no peace treaty since the Korean War started in the 1950s, so it’s just governed by an armistice,” Professor of Political Science David Rowe said. “Outside of the Middle East, it’s probably one of the most tense regions of the world.”
Declaring the end of this war could help North Korea escalate its campaign for the withdrawal of American troops from the South, according to a Sept. 17 Times article.
Jacqueline R. McAllister, assistant professor of political science, noted that while a bilateral peace agreement could be signed between North and South Korea, an agreement that effectively addresses all issues related to the Korean War would be harder to reach.
“The United States is highly unlikely to get on board, especially the Senate, unless there’s concrete steps towards denuclearization,” she said. “In international relations, any time you add more parties to an agreement, it makes the task of negotiating peace infinitely more complex — there’s just more parties with more interest and so forth.”
Washington has requested that North Korea provide a complete inventory of its weapons programs before they will take any measures toward peace, according to an Oct. 1 Reuters article. In response, North Korea stated that declaring the end of the 1950-1953 Korean War “can never be a bargaining chip.”
“It is hard to know what is going on in North Korea, but what we can know is because a lot of countries in the world are trying to prevent North Korea from the world economy, this makes them extremely poor,” Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science Andrew Hart said. “The government in North Korea is pressured by the poor economy and is trying to solve this problem by opening up their market.”
Rowe noted that these peace efforts are surrounded by much uncertainty and does not think it will result in a productive solution.
“On the one hand, it’s very desirable to have a kind of peace where we no longer have to worry about military force, we no longer have to worry about war and those kinds of things,” he said. “But it’s actually much harder to get there than sitting down and simply signing an agreement because both parties have to actually see peace in the same way and be willing to give up the same things.”
While Moon continues to talk with President Donald Trump, urging him to make peace with North Korea, North Korea plans to take a stronger stance in negotiations with the United States and suggested that Pyongyang will renounce denuclearization until the Korean War is formally brought to an end.