New tensions mark armistice’s 57th anniversary

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New tensions mark armistice’s 57th anniversary


North Korean soldiers stand face-to-face with U.S. guards from the UN Command during the commemoration of the 57th anniversary of the July 27, 1953, signing of the armistice in Panmunjom yesterday. [NEWSIS]

The armistice that ended the bloody, three-year Korean War marked its 57th anniversary yesterday as escalating tensions between the two Koreas underscored the vulnerability of a cease-fire treaty that was supposed to be temporary.

Several commemorations were held in South Korea and the United States with a background of ratcheted-up rhetoric from North Korea and joint Seoul-Washington military drills that climaxed with an anti-submarine war game yesterday.

The U.S.-led UN Command, which signed the armistice with North Korea, held a re-enactment of the signing at the truce village of Panmunjom. At the event, Walter Sharp, head of the UN Command, reiterated that the sinking of South Korea’s Cheonan warship in March - which a Seoul-led multinational investigation blamed on the North - is a “clear violation of the Armistice,” which suspended all hostilities. A total of 46 South Korean sailors on the Cheonan were killed.

Sharp stressed that the Cheonan sinking was only one of many violations of the armistice by the North. UN Command data showed the North violated the armistice 425,271 times through April 1994. The North withdrew from the Military Armistice Commission, which oversees the treaty, on May 24, 1994, but has kept open a dialogue channel with the UN Command through the Panmunjom Mission of the Korean People’s Army.

The North observed the day with customary belligerence.

During a speech at an event in Pyongyang marking the anniversary, Kim Yong-chun, vice chief of the National Defense Commission of North Korea, warned against “vicious challenge against the Republic [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, which is the official name of North Korea] from the United States and its followers.”

Kim described current tensions on the peninsula as a “touch-and-go situation” and blamed it on “provocative actions” by the South and the U.S.

Entering into the third day of its four-day joint military drill “Invincible Spirit,” aimed at protesting the Cheonan sinking, Seoul and Washington dropped anti-submarine bombs in the sea off the east coast. Around 20 warships, including the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington, and 8,000 servicemen are mobilized in the drill.

Some critics expressed doubt over whether the armistice can hold up, much less be upgraded into a peace treaty.

The armistice currently is maintained through general-level meetings between North Korea and the UN Command, which have been held 16 times since 1998.

The two sides held two lower-level meetings early this month to arrange a general-level meeting to talk about the Cheonan, but whether a general-level meeting will be scheduled remains unclear as the North continues to deny its involvement in the Cheonan sinking. A spokesman for the UN Command said a third working-level meeting will be held as early as this week.

Meanwhile, U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement commemorating the signing of the armistice Monday, saying the alliance between the U.S. and South Korea is rooted in shared sacrifice. Nearly 180,000 soldiers were killed in the Korean War, including more than 36,500 Americans.

By Moon Gwang-lip []

Related Korean Article

한미 연합훈련 사흘째
北 `핵억제력 더욱 강화할 것`

1953년 7월27일 오전 10시 옛 판문점(현재 북한 판문리에 있는 평화박물관)에서 유엔군 대표인 윌리엄 해리슨 중장과 북한군 대표인 남 일 대장이 정전협정문을 상호 교환했다.

3년여에 걸쳐 한반도를 유린한 6.25 전쟁을 마감하는 순간이었다.

정전협정이 체결된 지 57년이 지났지만 한반도에는 여전히 군사적 긴장감이 팽팽하다.

한국과 미국은 4개월전 발생한 천안함 피격사건에 대한 항의표시로 지난 25일부터 항공모함인 조지 워싱턴호와 세계 최강의 전투기로 불리는 F-22, 핵 잠수함 등을 동원해 동해상에서 무력시위를 벌이고 있다.

북한은 천안함 피격사건과 자신들은 무관하다고 주장하면서 한미 연합훈련에 대한 군사적 대응을 공언하고 있다.

엄밀히 말해 현재 한반도는 전쟁이 종식된 것이 아닌 휴전상태에 있다. 역설적으로 한반도의 평화를 영구히 정착시킬 과제를 우리에게 던지고 있다.

유엔군사령부는 27일 오전 판문점에서 월터 샤프 주한미군사령관 등이 참석한 가운데 정전협정 체결 재연행사를 개최한다.

판문점은 최근 유엔사 군사정전위원회와 북한군 판문점군사대표부가 천안함 사건의 정전협정 위반 여부를 두고 기싸움을 벌이는 곳이기도 하다.

유엔사 군정위는 지난 23일 판문점에서 열린 2차 대령급 실무회담에서 북한군에 천안함 피격사건을 일으켜 정전협정을 위반한 것에 대한 원인을 평가하기 위해 공동평가단을 소집하자고 제안했다.

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