About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
Seoul is bracing for the possibility that North Korea and the U.S. may declare a formal end to the Korean War at their upcoming summit in Hanoi, the South Korean presidential office said on Monday, emphasizing that such a bilateral-level declaration would be “sufficient.”
Presidential spokesperson Kim Eui-keum admitted the possibility when asked if the declaration of the end to the Korean War could be a topic of discussion at the second DPRK-U.S. summit, set to begin February 27 in Vietnam.
“The possibility is open. We cannot presume what the form of the [end-of-war] declaration will be,” Kim told a regular press briefing. “But there is the possibility it could be agreed by North Korea and the U.S. in some degree.”
Washington has so far declined to confirm if an end-of-war declaration will be part of any agreement signed at the conclusion of this week’s summit.
Kim explained that the declaration would be “different” from a peace treaty, emphasizing the end-of-war declaration has the “essential meaning” of pushing Pyongyang towards achieving denuclearization.
The spokesperson pointed to “non-aggression and a practical end to the war” achieved through the two inter-Korean summits and a military agreement signed in September, as well as existing diplomatic ties between Seoul, Beijing, and Washington as factors which would facilitate any new U.S.-DPRK declaration.
Following the fifth inter-Korean summit held in Pyongyang in September, the Blue House said President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “have declared a practical end to the Korean War” by signing the Pyongyang Joint Declaration.
South Korea and China established formal diplomatic relations in 1992, and the U.S. and China normalized their bilateral ties in 1979.
“The only countries left are North Korea and the U.S.,” the ROK presidential spokesperson said.
“Therefore, my view is that my previous comments — that the significance [of the declaration] will be achieved in the practical sense if North Korea and the U.S. declare the end to the war — still remain valid.”
If such a bilateral declaration is made, Kim said, “the end-of-war declaration among the four countries with war experience on the Korean peninsula is completed.”
The Blue House spokesperson said there may be “various types and contents” of such a declaration, including quadripartite, tripartite, and bilateral, continuing that Seoul nonetheless supports a two-party agreement on the issue.
“I think the end-of-war declaration between North Korea and the U.S. would be sufficient by itself,” he told assembled media.
But even if Washington and Pyongyang agree on the declaration, the Blue House said the signing of a multilateral peace treaty — which may include the four countries or possibly more — and the establishment of peace regime is ultimately “necessary” to settle peace and order on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia.
“The end-of-war declaration will serve as the entry to the peace regime,” Kim suggested.
Kim repeatedly underlined the difference between the end-of-war declaration and the peace treaty during the news briefing, explaining that the peace treaty, in particular, should be signed at the multilateral level.
“The end-of-war declaration is a political declaration,” he clarified. “But our government’s stance is that multiple parties should engage in the peace treaty as a peace regime must be guaranteed by the multilateral number of countries.”
The South Korean presidential spokesperson said it is “still too early to discuss the peace treaty or prepare for it,” however.
Should Pyongyang and Washington reach an agreement on the declaration at the second summit, Kim said the peace treaty would appear to “come at the final stage of the denuclearization process.”
“This is because the peace treaty should contain significantly complex and structural clauses,” he added.
The South Korean government would welcome “any format of the end-of-war declaration,” Kim said, continuing that the declaration is “more significant” as it plays the role of accelerating denuclearization and facilitating the process without any setbacks.
April’s Panmunjom Declaration saw the two Koreas agree to declare the end of the Korean War on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement falling on July 27, 2018.
Seoul and Pyongyang also shared the intention to “actively pursue” trilateral or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the U.S., and China to replace the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement and establish a permanent and solid peace regime.
Featured Image: Dan Scavino Jr. Twitter
Edited by Colin Zwirko