[VIEWPOINT]Treaty may encourage peaceThe issue of replacing Korea’s armistice with a peace treaty was first raised in the joint statement adopted at the fourth round of six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear program on Sept. 19, 2005. The issue has again attracted world attention 14 months later.
U.S. President George W. Bush raised the issue of signing a peace treaty with North Korea at a summit meeting with President Roh Moo-hyun on Friday.
The White House spokesman confirmed that by saying that the United States would consider signing a peace treaty that would officially end the Korean War as an incentive to the North, if North Korea abandoned its nuclear weapons program.
However, there are people who tend to under-evaluate the remark as a repetition of the joint statement adopted by the six-party talks on disarming North Korea’s nuclear development program.
However, considering the changes in important policy environment that took place in and out of the Korean Peninsula in the past 10 years, it should be noted that there are chances that discussions on a peace treaty could make rapid progress in the near future.
As the major cause for such changes in environment, North Korea’s nuclear test, the UN Security Council’s sanctions on North Korea, adjustment of the Korea-U.S. alliance and the decision to transfer wartime control from Washington and the results of the mid-term elections in the United States can be seen as four major reasons.
First of all, the United States is ready to adopt such an inducement strategy as the resumption of six-party talks on North Korea’s nuclear program, in addition to pressure tactics, after the North carried out its nuclear experiment. This is because the U.S.-led nuclear non-proliferation policy is greatly damaged, and the settlement of North Korea’s nuclear problem can no longer be entrusted to the progress of the six-party talks only. If North Korea’s nuclear threat, a Pandora’s box, is not closed quickly, the nightmare of an Iran armed with nuclear weapons will become a reality. Even now, the nuclear weapons in North Korea’s hands increase at the rate of one bomb a year. Nuclear weapons proliferation in Northeast Asia is no longer taboo.
The UN Security Council resolutions 1695 and 1718 and additional sanctions imposed by individual countries have become the decisive background for inducing the North back to the six-party talks. In the past, there was no inducement for the North’s participation, nor punishment for its refusal to take part. North Korea itself was mired inmoral hazard.
However, if the North refuses to return to the six-party talks repeatedly, the Security Council and UN member countries will impose more strict punishments. Under such circumstances, the U.S. proposal for signing a peace treaty and officially declaring the end of the Korean War will certainly attract the North’s attention.
It can be said that the results of the U.S. mid-term elections has become one of the variables.
Of course, it was primarily the American citizen’s judgment on the Iraq War that was started at the initiative of the Bush administration. However, as the Democrats have lost their primary target of accusation with the resignation of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, they will make the North Korean nuclear issue a major topic in the next U.S. presidential elections.
Therefore, there is a possibility that the Republican government will try to have a dialogue and improve relations with North Korea.
At the same time, from the position of the United States, the atmosphere for the discussion of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula has become relatively free due to the adjustment of the South Korea-U.S. alliance. In the past, as the debate on the signing of a peace treaty used to spread to the debate on the transfer of wartime control of South Korean troops and the dissolution of the UN Command, it could not make progress.
However, as the governments of South Korea and the United States have agreed on a transfer of wartime control of South Korean troops, a change in the status of the UN Command has become inevitable after the transfer of wartime control. Therefore, both the United States and South Korea can be free from the burden of worrying over such complications.
In the past, there were always confrontations between the “alliance supporters” and “nationalism supporters” whenever the signing of a peace treaty was discussed. The alliance supporters maintained a position of “denuclearization first, peace treaty later” out of worries that the signing of a peace treaty would accelerate the transfer of wartime control and the dissolution of the UN Command.
On the other hand, the “nationalism supporters” insisted on the early signing of a peace treaty by emphasizing that the conclusion of a peace treaty and establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea would induce North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.
However, such debate on a peace treaty has lost its meaning. Now, we have to find a pragmatic means by which we can accomplish the goal of denuclearization and peace settlement on the Korean Peninsula in a new diplomatic and security environment.
For the goal of denuclearization of North Korea, we can promote the dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program in parallel with the signing of a peace treaty and the establishment of diplomatic ties between Washington and Pyongyang. For this, both sides should agree on a set of balanced measures that both sides will take simultaneously in stages and prepare methods of thorough verification.
North Korea and the United States should not miss the chance to accomplish denuclearization, guaranteed security and peace settlement at the same time.
It is especially necessary for North Korea to accept a nuclear freeze and inspection as the first step for the implementation of the joint statement adopted at the fourth round of six-party talks in September last year. Pyongyang must be aware that such rewards as easing of sanctions, economic aid and diplomatic ties will be given by stages.
I hope that the U.S. proposal to sign a peace treaty that will officially end the Korean War will provide a momentum for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
*The writer is a professor of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Jun Bong-geun