Tuesday’s reported ballistic missile launch by North Korea near the city of Sinpo will likely dominate U.S. news in the coming days. Virtually all analysis will focus on North Korea’s growing military threat, rather than its cause. Yet the real action has been the flurry of diplomatic activities in recent weeks, which, if successful, will be far more consequential than Pyongyang’s missile tests.
South Korea’s National Security Advisor Suh Hoon was in Washington last week to discuss President Moon Jae-in’s proposal to formally end the 1950-1953 Korean War. This week, U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim was in Seoul to explore this and other issues with his South Korean counterpart, Noh Kyu-duk, prior to a trilateral meeting with his South Korean and Japanese counterparts. Seoul’s repeated call to address the political dimension of the instability on the peninsula presents an opportunity for the Biden administration to dispel fear-driven narratives about ending America’s longest “forever war” and instead chart a forward-looking vision for the Korean Peninsula.
An end-of-war declaration is a political statement declaring an end to hostilities between enemies of war. It is a unilateral expression and has no legal status, though some consider it a preamble to a legally binding peace treaty to replace the Armistice Agreement that originally ended the fighting in 1953.
As Stephen Biegun, who served as deputy secretary of state and special representative for North Korea in the Trump administration, recently noted, an end-of-war declaration could be part of a “package” of offers to incentivize North Korea’s cooperation on denuclearization. A peace regime would institutionalize the peace process by establishing norms and rules of engagement, with the goal of proactively addressing the underlying issues that might motivate the North to attack the South.
Read the full article in Foreign Policy.