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North continues push for formal end to war

Editorial characterizes peninsula’s status quo as ticking time bomb
July 26,2018
North Korea continued to push the South to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and expressed “regret” for the delay, comparing the current armistice agreement to a ticking time bomb in an editorial published by the state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on Tuesday.

An English version of the editorial indicated such a declaration as the “first process for defusing tension and building a solid peace-keeping mechanism on the peninsula” and a “primary step” for North Korea and the United States to form mutual trust.

The Korean War ended with a cease-fire rather than a peace treaty, leaving both Koreas still technically at war. The KCNA called the status quo a ticking time bomb that threatens the security of the Korean Peninsula, region and rest of the world.

“The adoption of the declaration on the termination of war is the first and foremost process in light of ending the extreme hostility and establishing new relations between the DPRK and the U.S.,” the editorial read. DPRK is short for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The KCNA used a markedly softer tone than Uriminzokkiri and Arirang-Meari, two North Korean propaganda websites that cater to audiences outside the country. Unlike those outlets, the KCNA blamed the South’s opposition Liberty Korea Party and “other conservative forces” for the delay.

Ending the war “should have been settled long before,” the KCNA said, in spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration signed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un during their first summit on April 27 and the joint statement between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump during their summit on June 12. It is “deeply regretful” that the issue has not been settled yet due to “various conditions and excuses,” the KCNA said.

The latest editorial came days after Uriminzokkiri accused the United States of “refusing” to declare an end to the Korean War even after it previously showed support for the Panmunjom Declaration, which reads that Seoul, Washington and Pyongyang would work together on the goal. The website claimed South Korea was “idly standing by.”

Arirang-Meari pointed fingers at Seoul and Washington for the delay and said the United States was unilaterally pushing the North to give up its nuclear weapons, while the South was not showing any “active efforts” to resolve the stalemate between Pyongyang and Washington.

At issue is the part of the Panmunjom Declaration that reads, “During this year that marks the 65th anniversary of the Armistice, South and North Korea agreed to actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States and China, with a view to declaring an end to the war and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime.”

However, declaring an end to the war was not explicitly specified in Kim and Trump’s joint statement. Among other items, both leaders agreed to “join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” and “commit to establish new U.S.-DPRK relations.”

With tomorrow marking the 65th anniversary of the armistice, South Korean analysts believe the North is feeling jittery about the lack of progress made on a declaration to end the war, chiefly because the regime sees the issue as a starting point to guaranteeing the security of its country.

A South Korean official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Pyongyang equates the declaration to a signal that Washington was withdrawing its anti-North policy. This turned out to be far from reality on Monday, when U.S. government agencies issued an advisory calling for the strict enforcement of sanctions against North Korea.

South Korea’s unification minister, Cho Myoung-gyon, who oversees relations with the North, reaffirmed Seoul’s goal of declaring a formal end to the war within this year during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday and said both Koreas and the United States were discussing the issue.

A declaration to end the war is necessary at this point to add momentum to North Korea’s denuclearization, said Koh Yoo-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University. For Washington to say that it can’t happen out of fear that Pyongyang won’t keep its word on giving up its nuclear weapons would be akin to maintaining the Cold War system, Koh said.

Chun Yung-woo, head of the board of directors at the Korean Peninsula Future Forum, however, raised caution about any hasty decisions. The North, he said, could use the declaration as justification to undermine any U.S. military options against it.

BY YOO JEE-HYE, LEE SUNG-EUN AND PARK YU-MI [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]