중앙데일리

Which nations hold stakes in peace treaty discussions?

Oct 16,2007
U.S. General William K. Harrison, Jr., left, and North Korean General Nam Il sign the armistice treaty at Panmunjeom on July 27, 1953. [JoongAng Ilbo]
Nations involved in the discussions on North Korean nuclear issues, or six-party talks, are trying to officially end the Korean War with a peace treaty. An armistice signed in 1953 put a stop to fighting and established a temporary peace, but left the two nations technically still at war.
Both Koreas and the United States have lauded the idea of formally ending the Korean War with a peace treaty, but questions on which nations will participate in the process have arisen. The Oct. 2-4 inter-Korean summit agreement, signed by the South’s President Roh Moo-hyun and North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il, called for “three to four parties” to be involved in ending the war, including at least both Koreas and the United States. After the summit, Blue House spokesman Cheon Ho-seon explained that whether Beijing would be involved in the process was “a matter of [North and South Korea’s] choice.”
The remarks prompted speculation that one or both Koreas no longer wanted China to meddle in inter-Korean affairs.
Nevertheless, when reporters asked whether Beijing saw itself playing a part in establishing a peace regime in Korea, Ning Fukui, the Chinese ambassador to Seoul, said that his country was looking forward to playing an “active and constructive role.”
Foreign ministry officials such as Foreign Minister Song Min-soon have tried to downplay the issue, saying that Beijing didn’t need to be included in discussions of some issues, such as disarmament talks, but that it would be involved in the overall process of establishing a peace regime.
Officials and scholars are explaining the concept of a peace regime as the establishment of lasting peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula through the sum of a variety of treaties and organizations that would enforce them.
The confusion over who will participate in the treaty talks stems from the original parties that negotiated the armistice: In July of 1953, U.S. General Mark W. Clark for the United Nations Command, Chinese military commander Peng Dehuai and North Korean leader Kim Il Sung signed the agreement. South Korea did not participate, as then-President Syngman Rhee refused to send an envoy to the signing.
Rhee believed the war could have ended with the peninsula’s reunification if U.S. troops had helped the South continue fighting the North. However, Rhee accepted the armistice in the end.
Thus, in the past North Korea has not viewed the South as an equal partner in the agreement that put a stop to the fighting. Since in the 1960s, North Korea has pursued a direct peace treaty with the United States. The now-deceased Kim called for such a treaty with the U.S. in 1973, and the following year North Korea’s Supreme People’s Assembly made an official proposal to Washington.
In any dispute, those directly involved are usually most interested in reconciliation, and the situation on the Korean Peninsula is no different. Both Koreas see themselves as the main parties involved, while the United States, which maintains a military presence in the South, also holds high stakes. China comes next, as a signatory of the armistice agreement.
Once a peace treaty is in place, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula will undergo dramatic changes. The status of the United Nations Command and U.S. military on the Korean Peninsula, both legacies of the Korean War, will have to be redefined.
These issues also involve China, which dispatched troops to support North Korea in the war and is also interested in maintaining a stable border with North Korea.
The latest round of nuclear negotiations ended earlier this month with further agreements aimed to denuclearize the North. Under the agreement, Pyongyang will declare and disable all of its nuclear programs and facilities by the end of this year. In return, it will receive 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil or the equivalent in energy aid, which could include repairing the North’s outdated electrical infrastructure.
Normalization of ties with Washington would also provide political and economic incentives for Pyongyang. Once the two sides have fully established diplomatic relations, Washington will remove current economic sanctions imposed against the North as well, giving Pyongyang much-needed access to the international finance system.
A future peace treaty depends on the key condition that North Korea keeps its promises to denuclearize. U.S. President George W. Bush has said that he may sign a peace treaty in a summit meeting with the North’s leader Kim Jong-il, provided that North Korea dismantles its nuclear programs.

by Brian Lee Staff Writerafricanu@joongang.co.kr



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