Earlier this week, South Korean officials confirmed that Peace Treaty negotiations were in the works with North Korea to formally end the Korean War. Direct negotiation between President Moon Jae-in and the Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un will happen within weeks.
President Donald Trump said he has given his “blessing” for the Korean peace talks, which may bring an end to the 65-year-long war.
OnlyNorth Korea, China and the United Nations Command signed a formal armistice. However, South Korea also needs to agree to the terms of the peace treaty, despite it not having signed the armistice originally.
President Moon Jae-in of South Korea during his presidential campaign had stated that ending the Korean War would be his top priority. His National Security Adviser confirmed this week that Seoul has been in talks with Pyongyang and Washington, about a peace treaty, the negotiations of which will take place with Kim, during Moon’s summit, which will take place on Friday.
Despite the announcement made by South Korean officials, and their efforts to end the war, many figures in Washington, are skeptical about the results of these peace talks, and their likelihood of reaching a breakthrough.
“We need to be very careful here because words means different things to different people,” stated Dean Cheng, who is a senior research fellow at the Asian Studies Center of the Heritage Foundation. “Yes, it ends a conflict, and therefore [in North Korea’s view], it also ends the U.S.-South Korea alliance.”
“You’re going way down the road,” said the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) when questioned about the peace treaty. “I think the first step is denuclearizing, and that would be huge for Kim Jong Un to give up when he views that as his only mechanism to keep from being regime changed or invaded or something else.”
When asked specifically about the stance of the U.S. military, after the signing of the peace treaty, Corker said, “Y’all are talking about things that are years down the road.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) stated that North Korea would have to “earn” the peace treaty.
“You need to make sure if you sign a peace treaty with North Korea they’re peaceful,” said Graham. “I suggested this to the president. I said, ‘You should go big. You should look at ending the Korean War. It’s never come to an end. Put it on the table. We’re ready to end the war and have a more normal relationship, and the price of admission is you’ve got to give up your nuclear program.’”
Also, in the past week, South Korean President Moon confirmed that North Korea has taken back their demand of withdrawing U.S. troops, who stationed in South Korea, in return for denuclearization. However, Dean Cheng believes that they might put the condition back on the table, for the peace treaty.
“It becomes a little like balloon animals,” said Cheng. “When you squeeze one end of the balloon, the air goes to other end. North Korea’s not going to bring up troop withdrawal as a condition for denuclearization, but they may make it a condition for other things.”
According to Cheng, North Korea could ask for the withdrawal of U.S. troops stationed in Japan since the Korean War. Cheng put forward other hard-hitting questions about how far the U.S. will go in making concessions to get North Korea to sign the peace treaty.
“To what extent do you choose to trust a regime that in the past sank a South Korean warship on the high seas, blew up South Korea’s cabinet in Burma, killed two American soldiers,” said Cheng. “You hope a peace treaty will reduce tension, but what do you think North Korea will do after a peace treaty?”
North Korea has long sought a peace treaty as a tool to help normalize relations with the United States and gain international legitimacy, said Robert Gallucci, who was the chief U.S. negotiator, during the North Korean nuclear crisis, that took place in 1994. He said that North Korea has been wanting to normalize relations with the U.S. for a long time, through the signing of a peace treaty; however, it been an “objective” rather than a “demand,” he said.
“They ain’t got us by the throat or any other body part,” said Gallucci. “They’re in no position to make demands.”