South Korean President Moon Jae-in continues his quest to declare an end to the Korean War despite months of fruitless diplomacy that has exposed divisions between Seoul and Washington.
Moon told the UN General Assembly in September that formal declaration to end the war, which was fought from 1950 until the signing of a ceasefire agreement in 1953, would “be a pivotal point of departure in creating a new order of reconciliation and cooperation on the Korean Peninsula”.
But doubts in Washington, Pyongyang and Beijing have thwarted his hopes of gaining a long-sought-after political legacy as a peacemaker, illustrating the complexity of reconciling the competing interests of the four parties to a 70-year-old conflict.
North Korea, China and the US-led UN order discussed the signing of a peace treaty within three months of the ceasefire, but failed to do so.
“All Koreans have long strived for peace, prosperity and unification,” Moon, whose presidential term ends in May, said Monday. “I will continue to make efforts to institutionalize sustainable peace, and I will not stop until the end of my term.”
Go Myong-hyun, a senior fellow at the Asan Institute of Policy Studies brainstorm in Seoul, said: “For Moon, it’s not just about diplomatic strategy. It’s also a matter of national identity. He wants to be able to say that the Korean nation is no longer at war and that eventual unification is still on the horizon. “
Moon’s proposal is not for a legally binding peace treaty, but a symbolic statement made by supporters conversations start with Pyongyang.
“The proposal represents an attempt to end the stalemate, increase trust between the parties and build on a breakthrough on the issue of the disarmament of the Korean Peninsula,” said Moon Chung-in, a former special adviser to the president who is chairman of the Sejong. Institute think tank.
But some U.S. policymakers are concerned that such a statement could undermine the legitimacy of Washington’s decades-long military presence on the peninsula, where 28,500 US troops stationed.
“There is concern in Washington that an end-of-war declaration could serve as a pretext for North Korea and China to expand the US military presence not only on the peninsula but also in the region. questioned, “says Soo Kim, an analyst. at the Rand Corporation think tank.
Senior Korean officials have made a series of optimistic statements in recent weeks. Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Seoul and Washington had “effectively” agreed on the text of a draft statement, while Moon said on a visit to Australia last month that the parties to the war “in principle” agreed to his proposal.
But skeptics have insisted the South Korean government has put a brave face on a policy struggling to gain a foothold.
Jake Sullivan, US national security adviser, said of the proposal that the US and South Korea “could see something different about the exact order or timing or conditions for different steps”.
Soo Kim added that “Seoul wants an end-of-war declaration to initiate a process whereby North Korea takes concrete steps to reduce its nuclear threat, while Washington wants to see steps taken before it even makes the proposal. consider.
“The South Koreans like to suggest questions about timing and order as minor differences, but it is absolutely fundamental and there is no sign that they are being bridged.”
Even if Seoul and Washington were able to resolve their differences, analysts said, there was little indication that North Korea willing to get involved.
Pyongyang maintains that any progress in discussing a formal statement depends on Washington’s its “hostile policy”To the North.
“What must be abandoned is the ambiguous attitudes, illogical prejudice, bad habits and hostile stance to justify their own actions while blaming our just exercise of the right to self-defense,” said Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the Northern Korean leader Kim Jong Un said in September – the last time a senior member of the regime commented on the proposal.
Go Myong-hyun said Moon’s time is running out. “From Pyongyang’s perspective, what’s the point of signing an end-of-war declaration if the South Koreans then elect a president who opposes it?”
Moon’s plans also have hinder is by the weakening in relations between the US and China. South Korea’s hopes that Beijing’s Winter Olympics in February will provide the backdrop for a negotiated push have been fueled by a US-led diplomatic boycott of the games.
Some observers have suggested it China will welcome it an end-of-war declaration for the same reasons that many in the US are opposed to.
But Lee Sang-soo of the Institute for Security and Development Policy Thinking in Stockholm said Beijing was “considerate of any process that could lead to a rapprochement between Pyongyang and Washington”.
Lee added that Moon’s proposal was also opposed by Tokyo. Japan is not a party to the war, but maintains a hard line against the Kim regime.
For his proponents, however, the proposal is just as morally imperative as a diplomatic gamble.
“The unresolved status quo of the Korean War is an anomaly and an insult to those who fought in that war,” said Jessica Lee, a fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
“It can not be too early to do something that is already decades in arrears,” said Moon Chung-in of the Sejong Institute. “The US does not want ‘eternal wars’, and neither do we.”