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Harris: End to war is ‘worth the effort’

U.S. ambassador says summit is ‘starting point’ for declaration
Aug 14,2018
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Harry Harris, the U.S. ambassador to South Korea, gives a lecture on the South Korea-U.S. alliance at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in southern Seoul on Monday. [NEWS1]
The U.S. ambassador to South Korea said on Monday that while it is too early to formally declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean War, the joint agreement signed by the American and North Korean leaders in June is “the starting point.”

“We’ve just begun the process, so it’s early days yet,” Harry Harris said at a public lecture at the Korea National Diplomatic Academy in southern Seoul, “but I do believe that this is worth the effort for the United States and our allies, especially us and the Republic of Korea.

“We have the same goal,” he said, repeating the Donald Trump administration’s line. “That’s the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Harris made his first public lecture since he took the post as the United States’ representative in South Korea five weeks ago. The theme: the “U.S.-ROK Relationship: Toward the Next 65 Years,” discussing the two countries’ relationship built on mutual security and economic interests.

“We intend to build on the agreements that were made in Singapore, and I think that becomes the starting point,” Harris said, referring to the joint statement signed by Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “I think that the relationship between President Trump and Chairman Kim is an important one.”

In an interview earlier this month, Harris said that the United States would have to see “demonstrable moves toward denuclearization” by North Korea before a declaration to end the war, which technically concluded with an armistice agreement rather than a peace treaty.

While he did not elaborate on further details about concrete measures, a timeline or parties involved to such a declaration or peace treaty, Harris responded on Monday to a question on the topic that “it’s certainly worth having that discussion.”

But he also pointed out that South Korean President Moon Jae-in “himself has stated that the improvement in relations between North and South Korea can’t advance separately from the nuclear question itself.”

He advised to let discussions, including inter-Korean talks that took place on Monday, “play out a little bit” and then “see what the future holds.”

In the lecture, Harris noted that this year marks the 65th anniversary of the alliance between South Korea and the United States, which he called the “linchpin of our efforts to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific, in which all can prosper peacefully.”

Harris, born in Yokosuka, Japan, previously led the U.S. Pacific Command and is the first admiral and highest-ranking military officer to serve as U.S. ambassador to South Korea.

Trump and Moon, Harris said, “took bold and unprecedented steps to transform our respective relations with North Korea” to “establish enduring peace on the peninsula and achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the North.”

He continued that the vision of the two leaders “provides a historic opening for North Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-un to move down the path toward permanent security and prosperity.” Harris said the “potential for positive change in North Korea is limitless” but underscored this is only if Kim “fulfills his commitment to denuclearize.”

“Sanctions will remain in place until North Korea takes concrete and verifiable steps toward denuclearization,” Harris said. “Our two nations are committed to choosing the right deal, not just any deal.”

On whether Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would make another trip to Pyongyang soon, Harris replied that he was “not going to discuss it here at this point.”

On the issue of illegal shipments of North Korean coal to the South, he said, “All UN member states are required to implement Security Council resolutions. I’m aware that South Korea has investigated and will take some kind of action against those entities that are involved in that.”

When asked what the United States thinks about North Korea’s disgruntlement over not being rewarded for the dismantlement of a nuclear test site and missile engine test site, he replied, “I believe that President Trump believes in the commitment that Kim Jong-un made in Singapore, so we’ll see where that goes.”

He also noted that his appointment by Trump as envoy to South Korea may be because he “was looking for someone with expertise in the region that understood the challenge about North Korea.”

Harris arrived in Seoul last month to assume the post left vacant after his predecessor, Mark Lippert, stepped down upon the inauguration of Trump in January last year.

“The coming decades will take us even further,” Harris said about South Korea-U.S. relations. Should North Korea “deliver on the commitments to denuclearize, we all can expect a brighter future for the people of North Korea as well,” he added.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]