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[Editorial] Ending the Korean War

Posted October. 25, 2007 03:19,   


Baek Jong-cheon, presidential aide for national security, said in a lecture yesterday, “The ‘declaration ending the Korean War made by three or four parties’ at the October 4 inter-Korean summit is a political and symbolic declaration of the will to begin negotiations for a peace treaty on the Korean peninsula.”

In contrast, Foreign Minister Song Min-soon said, “To declare launching negotiations for a peace treaty is one thing; to declare ending the Korean War is another. Declaration of ending the war is a part of a peace treaty. To end the war, we need the right political, military and legal conditions.”

Song is right.

Baek interprets a declaration ending the war as the beginning of negotiations for a peace treaty, while Song considers it the end of such negotiations. The different interpretation of the two senior officials responsible for diplomacy and security policies confuses the public. It is outrageous that the government is trying to embark on negotiations for a peace treaty and organize armistice talks when it does not have a clear understanding of a declaration ending the war which will have a profound impact on the inter-Korean relationship and northeast Asian order.

Baek’s intention can be guessed easily. He must want to push ahead with the process of getting leaders to gather and declare an official end to the war, and the beginning of negotiations for a peace treaty, as soon as possible. President Roh Moo-hyun must want the same thing. As a president who said, “Even if I fail in everything else, if I improve the inter-Korean relationship, I will be successful,” he is clearly looking to leave an achievement during his time in office.

However, as Song said, we need to meet several preconditions if we are to press ahead with a declaration ending the war. The risk of war on the Korean peninsula must be eliminated completely. Above all, the North Korean nuclear problem must be addressed. The six-party talks are going well, but there is a long way to go yet until North Korea’s dismantlement of its nuclear weapons is finished. Worse yet, it is questionable whether dismantlement will ever happen at all. Moreover, the U.S. says that such a declaration would be possible in the latter stages of the denuclearization process, or even later. Conditions are not mature enough to discuss such a declaration.

President Roh admitted that he signed on to the October declaration without clearly understanding the meaning of “three-party” or “four-party” mentioned in it. Maybe the president is too complacent about the declaration of ending Korean war. Such declaration does not guarantee peace, and talk of peace does not automatically bring peace. An outgoing administration obsessed with its legacy about inter-Korean relationship could spell a disaster.