[Letters]End the war on the Korean Peninsula
Remember your high school physics class? Remember Newton’s third law of motion that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction?” This law of physics has been interpreted to mean that “perpetual motion” is not possible.
This law of physics is being proved wrong on the Korean Peninsula.
The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) have been “at war” with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) since June 25, 1950, with no end in sight.
Historians and pessimists can point out that in only 42 more years we will break the record currently held by the Hundred Years War for the longest war.
To the layman it would seem obvious that we ought to get this war settled and done with and move on just as we have with Britain (remember the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812?), Mexico, Spain, Germany, Japan and Vietnam.
Unfortunately, as the years have rolled by, and we have gone through almost a dozen presidents, other pressing national and international priorities have attracted the attention of our leaders and their mostly well-intentioned advisers.
We have forgotten about this, the “forgotten war,” only taking an interest when another significant crisis developed, such as the capture of the USS Pueblo in 1968 and the explosion of a nuclear device in 2006, among others.
We began belatedly to show a greater interest in the mid-1990s as the North Koreans were found to be developing their own nuclear capabilities for both energy and defense, as their previous major sources for these items in the East Bloc collapsed (where is their nuclear umbrella since the 1990s?)
Unfortunately, our concerns were not about ending the war and creating peaceful conditions on the Korean Peninsula suitable for a “normal” relationship with the DPRK.
Rather we have narrowly focused, particularly after 9/11, on preventing the creation/perpetuation of another nuclear power (with its real threat of further proliferation).
This is certainly a noble goal, but one clearly unattainable without resolving the issues of our war status with the DPRK.
In a not very perfect analogy, could we have negotiated with Germany to stop its development of the V1s and V2s while the Second World War was still going on?
In our relations with the DPRK, more often than not we also seem to be out of sync with our long-time allies, South Korea and Japan. When they tried to make progress in the last decade, we resisted.
Only in the final few years of the Bush administration as we began to try a little, and I do mean a very little, diplomacy (as opposed to non-negotiable policy demands dictated by political appointees from outside the State Department), the Japanese and the new South Korean administrations have been dragging their feet, again over serious issues of accountability and abductions, but not ones that should be “deal breakers.”
Unless the Obama administration can show strong leadership and focus early in its tenure on ending the Korean War as a precondition to, rather than as a reward for, solving the nuclear issues, we are likely to see further crises develop as the North Koreans continue to try to regain our attention while “safeguarding” their own security.
We should not drop the important talks attempting to resolve the nuclear issues, but rather we should open a strong “second front” with serious, parallel talk s that would result in
i) a formal end to the Korean War, which means concluding a peace treaty between the DPRK, the ROK and the U.S. at a minimum, with the possible addition of China; and
ii) diplomatic relations, thereby laying suitable and appropriate groundwork for a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issues.
The first step will not be easy either, but it is certainly clear that with only minimal progress on the nuclear front in the last eight-plus years, we need to work on a different, broader approach if we expect to see some resolution of this issue in our lifetimes.
Failure to focus on resolving the war on the Korean Peninsula as a priority will result in a continuation of this perpetual motion machine and another shot at the record for the longest war.
Let’s hope that wiser heads prevail.
Walter L. Keats, President, Asia Pacific Travel, Ltd. Kenilworth, IL, USA