Impatience isn’t a strategyIn a video speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in pleaded for a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War. “I hope that the UN and the international community provide support so that we can advance into an era of reconciliation and prosperity through the end-of-war declaration,” he said. But that is a dangerous proposal given that without any concrete steps taken to ensure the denuclearization of North Korea, it’ll trigger a critical security vacuum on the peninsula.
We understand Moon’s desperation to find a breakthrough in the deadlocked U.S.-North denuclearization negotiations amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue. If the stalemate is left unattended and if Biden wins the presidential election in November, it will not help the top-down solution of peninsula issues favored by Trump and Moon.
Yet, Moon’s insistence to end the war without tangible results in denuclearizing North Korea translates into an argument that the Korean Peninsula is peaceful despite constant nuclear threats from Pyongyang. Moon’s proposal can offer North Korea grounds to call for the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK). How would Moon respond if North Korea immediately demands a pullout after declaring an end to the war? North Korea could also demand the United Nations Command (UNC) be dismantled. Without the UNC stationed in South Korea, South Korea’s security could face serious risks in a worst-possible case.
It is sheer miscalculation to believe that the North’s military threat has ended because it does not attack South Korea anymore. Has Moon forgotten thedemolition on June 16 of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong?
In an event to mark the 67th anniversary of the truce, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un justified his possession of nuclear weapons, vowing to “protect the security and future of our motherland based on the reliable and effective nuclear deterrence for self-defense.” It is foolish to believe North Korea would give up its nuclear arsenal as long as South Korea continues dialogue.
More worrisome is the possibility that Moon made the proposal without consulting Washington insiders. Without consent from Washington, a declaration to end the war is nearly impossible. Unless some progress is made on denuclearization, such declarations are meaningless. Moon’s proposal for the establishment of a body in Northeast Asia to cooperate on health issues is equally unrealistic.
Moon does not want to delay denuclearization talks any longer. Unification calls for patience. We hope he stops rushing to make historic achievements simply out of impatience.