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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
North Korea has twice in the span of a week suggested that it and the U.S. should sign a peace treaty.
On October 1, at United Nations General Assembly, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong urged that the U.S. establish a permanent peace treaty with the North. Six days later, North Korea reiterated their call for a peace treaty with the U.S.
“Our stance on the need for the preparation of a peaceful environment on the Korean Peninsula is still adamant,” said the state-run Korean Central TV.
North Korea further stated that the unpredictable dangers on the Korean Peninsula have grown greater as the current 60-year-old armistice that ended the Korean War has failed to firmly establish a peace regime on the peninsula.
“The escalation of tension is destined to rise as long as the two countries remain in their current state. To prevent this, the U.S. and North Korea have to rewrite the treaty,” the network said.
“Should the U.S. boldly turn from their current policy, we would welcome it by answering back with constructive behavior. This conversation will dramatically ease the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and resolve the U.S.’s security worries. We have already sent a message via official channels, and expect to hear a truthful response from the U.S. regarding the request for peace talks.”
North Korea’s proposal for peace treaty with U.S. is nothing new. North Korea has made similar propositions in the past that have been rejected by the U.S. Long-time North Korea watcher Andrei Lankov has written that, if granted, a peace treaty would almost certainly be one exclusively between the U.S. and North Korea, and that this would cause considerable problems for South Korea.
But for North Korea to make the same call in less than a week is unusual; Cha Du-hyeogn, the former security adviser to President Lee Myung-bak believes that North Korea may be is approaching this issue more seriously than before.
“They used to make the peace treaty request once every few months,” Cha said. “We can see this as a possible sign that North Korea is serious about holding a conversation with U.S.”
Cha said North Korea’s attempt at peace talk with the U.S. would benefit North Korea no matter how it ends.
“It would be the best scenario for the North Korean government if the conversation with the U.S. resolves the fundamental tension on the Korean Peninsula, as they have stated. North Korea would not have to spend money on expensive weapons programs while holding the door open to hold talks with the U.S.,” he said.
“North Korea has invited the Chinese high-level envoy to the 70th Anniversary of the Worker’s Party of Korea. They are publicly telling the international community that they are ready for a conversation to ease the tension. Should the U.S. refuses to hold talks with North Korea, they would have no choice but to develop further their weapons programs and use this as propaganda. This will enhance North Korea’s domestic cohesion to some extent.”
But in the long term, developing more weapons would only force North Korea to fall into a vicious cycle.
“North Korea is already spending a lot of money on nuclear development and missile programs. It is not only an economic burden for North Korea, but is generating a backlash among the international community and the U.S.”
Cha believes that not even China can stop North Korea’s missile launch, should U.S. deny peace talks.
“Denial of talks would give the regime one more legitimate reason to further develop a more advanced weapons programs. At that point, China would not be able to stop North Korea as the whole situation would look like ‘U.S. turning down North Korea who have already made talk attempts twice in a row.’
“This would be the worst situation for Korean Peninsula,” said Cha.