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article imageAuthor argues it is time to end the Korean war

By Ken Hanly     Jul 7, 2019 in Politics
Recently Donald Trump became the first US president to ever set foot on North Korean soil and greeted Kim Jong-un the North Korean leader. The two together stepped onto South Korean soil and greeted its president Moon Jae-in.
The three then had a 50-minuted meeting in the South Korea's Freedom House. As he left the demilitarized zone (DMZ) Trump said: “We moved mountains.The meeting was a very good one, very strong... We’re not looking for speed, we’re looking to get it right.”
Christine Ahn, the founder and executive director of Women Cross DMZ, and the international coordinator of the global campaign Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilizing to End the Korean War, claimed in a recent article: "To get it right, the first step the Trump administration should take is to offer North Korea a security guarantee, whether in the form of an end of war declaration or a non-aggression pact. It may have been, after all, what convinced Kim to meet Trump at Panmunjom."
Relations have improved over last year
Just one year ago, North and South Korean soldiers faced off against each other. There were guard posts, landmines and loud speakers booming out propaganda across the DMZ. Yet today, the guard posts are removed and many of the landmines have also been removed. North Korean, South Korean and American security forces were able to stand side-by-side at Panmunjom. This is a testament to the relative success of last year's April 27 Summit in Panmunjom, where both Moon and Kim announced that there will be no more war on the Korean peninsula and that a new era had begun. This meeting was a prelude to the Singapore meeting where Trump and Kim promised that they would establish new relations that would build a lasting peace and involve the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
Much progress has been sabotaged by Trump hawks
Hard-line hawks in the Trump administration insist that North Korea must completely denuclearize before negotiations to improve relations can take place. It remains quite unlikely that Kim will accept such conditions as was shown at the failed summit at Hanoi.
There are different accounts of why that summit failed, as noted in the record of the summit on Wikipedia: "The 2019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit, commonly known as the Hanoi Summit, was a two-day summit meeting between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, held at the Metropole Hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, on February 27–28, 2019. This was the second meeting between the leaders of the DPRK and the United States, following the first meeting in June 2018 in Singapore. On February 28, 2019, the White House announced that the summit was cut short and that no agreement was reached. Trump later elaborated that it was because North Korea wanted an end to all sanctions. North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho asserted that the country only sought a partial lifting of five United Nations sanctions placed on North Korea between 2016 and 2017."
Trump administration wanted to move to meet Kim
After Chinese President XI Jinping visited North Korea and re-affirmed the alliance of the two countries, the Trump administration wanted to ensure that they could keep talks alive with the North. The eighth Trump-Moon Summit in South Korea after the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan provided such an opportunity.
On June 27th the North Korean Central News Agency released a statement by Kwong Jong Gun of the Foreign Ministry: “Even though we are to think of holding a dialogue with the U.S., we need first to see a proper approach towards the negotiation on the part of the U.S. Negotiation should be conducted with a counterpart who has a good sense of communication, and it could also be possible only when the U.S. comes up with a proper counterproposal"
US says it is committed to a more flexible approach to talks
Days before the summit,special representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun was on the ground. He reiterated the U.S. willingness to follow a “flexible approach.” The Foreign Ministry of South Korea said that the US is prepared to hold constructive talks with the North in order to move the commitments made in the June 12 Singapore Joint Declaration between Trump and Kim forward. This will involve a parallel process towards peace and denuclearization, in a step-by-step fashion. Trump's designation of Biegun to lead the working level talks was said to meet the North Korean demand that there be a counterpart who has a good sense of communication.
Building trust will take time
There has been nearly seventy years of tensions and war between the two Koreas. It will take a step-by-step resolving of issues to build up trust and a complete resolution of all the issues. Insisting on an all or nothing deal is unlikely to work. A crucial part of any agreement must be ending the Korean War and working toward a peace agreement which are one root cause of the nuclear standoff.
An end of the war declaration would be a good first step to show North Koreans that the US is indeed ready to transform the hostile relationship but a peace agreement would be even more powerful. This is what North Koreans, South Koreans and even China have called for. The present 1953 ceasefire should be replaced by a peace agreement.
How would such a declaration affect denuclearization?
Henri Feron a scholar at the Center for International Policy said: “While North Korea is unlikely to fully trust U.S. security guarantees, it will definitely see it as a positive signal worthy of reciprocation. On the other hand, for the U.S. to refuse to provide such guarantees will be interpreted in [North Korea] as clear evidence of continued hostility.”
More about North korea, Korean war, US North Korea relations
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