50 Years From the Ceasefire to the Peace?

|Korean Peninsula

July 27th marked the 50th anniversary of the conclusion of the Korean armistice treaty. In April this year, tripartite talks between the DPRK, the US and China were held in Beijing, and the second round of talks seems likely to take place in the near future. I would like to take a positive view of these talks between the material signatories of the ceasefire agreement, seeing them as a watershed for the return of peace after a 50-year hiatus. They could also be a major turning point in the formation and development of the Northeast Asia Economic Subregion.

It seems to be the case that the format of the talks, which could range from being bilateral to involving anything up to six parties, has yet to be decided, but the issue of denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula is likely to be common to all possible formats. What must not be forgotten is that not only the issue of the nuclear weapons themselves, but also the very usage of nuclear fuel must be settled. The ideal situation would be a convention under which the US, China and Russia agreed to respect the international legal status of the two Koreas as a nuclear-weapon-free zone, refraining from their introduction to, use in or transit through the peninsula. I wonder whether it might not be worth considering a Northeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Convention that also included Japan and Mongolia?

This may sound a somewhat idealistic argument, but I believe that it is much better than aiming for the concept of nuclear nonproliferation (PSI – Proliferation Security Initiative), which transcends current international law. Rather than sitting back and allowing other countries to criticize it, saying “What a nerve Japan has to try and get involved in the Korean Peninsula when it has yet to even begin to make reparation for its past misdeeds”, Japan should actively play a part as the only country in the world to have suffered a nuclear attack and one which adheres to the three non-nuclear principles.

” For us, as a small country, the only criterion for solving this problem is eliminating any threat to our right to existence and self-determination.

In order to meet this criterion, the options open to us are negotiations or deterrence; we are hoping for the former, if at all possible.”

These words formed the conclusion to the talks with a spokesman from the DPRK that took place on October 25th last year, at which the conclusion of a DPRK-US mutual non-aggression treaty was proposed as a fundamental solution to the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula. The DPRK only began to emphasize deterrence over negotiations when it witnessed the war in Iraq.

The DPRK took its nuclear facilities out of the deep freeze because the US (in the form of KEDO, which also includes Japan) suspended its shipments of heavy oil. The US originally failed to deliver the shipment of heavy oil that was due in December last year, while in October of last year, the DPRK denied to the special envoy dispatched by the US that it had a uranium enrichment program for nuclear weapons.

Recently, we have been reminded once again that there is a country that does not hesitate to manipulate information in order to justify its own actions (opening hostilities). There are countries that, dragged along blindly by this, are already moving from what is merely the planning stage of PSI, into the implementation stage. I can only hope that they do not suddenly find the “ladder” snatched from beneath their feet.

In the formation and development of the Northeast Asia Economic Subregion, the biggest problem is the existence in the region of two countries that do not have diplomatic relations. It goes without saying that this relationship is the one between the DPRK and Japan. A milestone has already been reached with the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, which was intended to solve this problem. Effort is required to put this process back on track in time for the first anniversary of the declaration.

[Translated by ERINA]