Questions over likelihood of peace declaration at summit

People paying their respects to a relative who died for the country at the national cemetery in Seoul yesterday, on the eve of South Korea's Memorial Day. Seoul's presidential Blue House said yesterday that South Korea will continue to seek a formal
People paying their respects to a relative who died for the country at the national cemetery in Seoul yesterday, on the eve of South Korea's Memorial Day. Seoul's presidential Blue House said yesterday that South Korea will continue to seek a formal end to the war, but that such a move will depend on the success of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore. PHOTO: REUTERS

Some hope for official end to Korean War, but others say statement on peace is more likely

SEOUL • South Korean officials are playing down the likelihood of a three-way peace declaration of the end of the Korean War by South Korea, North Korea and the United States next week.

There has been growing optimism over the possibility for such a declaration after US President Donald Trump suggested last Friday that he could declare an end to the Korean War at next week's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

 

Following a meeting with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol in Washington last week, Mr Trump said his summit with Mr Kim Jong Un, who is officially known as the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission, could result in an agreement formally ending the 1950 to 1953 conflict.

With the Korean War having ended with an armistice agreement, the North is technically still at war with the South and the US. Replacing the armistice with a peace treaty will require the participation of the three signatories of the armistice: the US, North Korea and China.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo, citing an unnamed diplomatic source, reported on Monday that South Korean President Moon Jae In will join Mr Kim and Mr Trump in Singapore next week to declare an end to the Korean War.

"Preparations are already under way for President Moon to declare a formal end to the Korean War with the two leaders on June 12, the date of the North-US summit, or the next day on the 13th," said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

With the Korean War having ended with an armistice agreement, the North is technically still at war with the South and the US. Replacing the armistice with a peace treaty will require the participation of the three signatories of the armistice: the US, North Korea and China.

But The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that some officials signalled caution about the prospect of a peace declaration, partly due to the little time remaining before the June 12 meeting and expectations that such a declaration would be largely symbolic.

 
 
 
 

The absence of China from the Singapore summit could be another reason for caution on the part of South Korean officials, analysts told The Wall Street Journal.

Seoul's former unification minister Chung Dong Young said that though a peace treaty would require China's signature, a peace declaration could be possible without Beijing, as the country is not at war with either of the Koreas or the US.

Mr Cho Seong Ryoul, a senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Strategy, told The Korea Herald that declaring an end to the Korean War would be like providing a political guarantee for Pyongyang's security concerns during the denuclearisation process until the armistice is replaced by a peace treaty.

Experts have said that any deal to get the North to give up its nuclear weapons could take as long as 10 years to implement.

Last week, the South's presidential Blue House sent an official to Singapore, fuelling speculation that the aide might be preparing for a meeting involving the three leaders. The Blue House denied the rumours, saying the dispatch was a preparation for a summit between the leaders of South Korea and Singapore next month.

The Blue House said yesterday that South Korea will continue to seek a formal end to the war, but that such a move will depend on the success of the Trump-Kim summit.

There were reports of President Moon working to include a non-aggression pact as a key plank to the trilateral declaration of the end of the Korean War. But Blue House spokesman Kim Eui Kyeom yesterday played down such reports, saying a non-aggression agreement will come after a declaration of an end to the war.

He added that Seoul is working closely with Beijing on matters regarding the possible peace treaty among the Koreas and the US, reported The Korea Herald.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2018, with the headline 'Questions over likelihood of peace declaration at summit'. Print Edition | Subscribe