It’s time to end the Korean War March 13, 2013Posted by rogerhollander in Asia, North/South Korea, War.
Tags: history, korea, korea armistice, korea ceasefire, korea history, korea nuclear, korea peace treaty, korea sanctions, korea truce, korean war, north korea, roger hollander, south korea, thomas walkom
Roger’s note: it is refreshing to see a columnist in a mainstream publication give a relatively balanced analysis of the situation on the Korean peninsula. Unfortunately, I don’t expect we are likely to see this kind of reporting in the North Korea demonizing US media.
Forget sanctions against Pyongyang. Until a real peace treaty is signed with North Korea, nothing will be solved.
Hulton Archive / GETTY IMAGES file photo
The ceasefire of 1953 called for all foreign troops to be withdrawn from the Korean peninsula. The Chinese withdrew, as did the Canadians, British and most other UN forces. But the Americans, at the behest of the South Korean government, stayed.
There is a way to defuse the standoff with North Korea. It will not be easy. But short of going to war again in the Korean peninsula, it is probably the only solution.
That solution is to negotiate and sign a real peace treaty with Pyongyang.
The great secret of the Korean War is that it has never ended. An armistice was signed in 1953 to halt the fighting and let belligerents begin talks on a final peace treaty.
But those talks never occurred.
This history — of what happened and what did not happen in 1953 — is crucial for an understanding of North Korea’s almost pathological approach to the world.
It also helps to explain why North Korea announced Monday that it is, in effect, tearing up the armistice.
The ceasefire of 1953 was not a deal between North and South Korea. South Korean president Syngman Rhee refused to sign on.
Rather it was an arrangement signed by commanders of the main military forces at war in the peninsula — the Americans on behalf of the United Nations Command (which included Canadian troops) and the North Koreans on behalf of their own soldiers and so-called Chinese volunteers.
The armistice set the demarcation line between territory controlled by the North Koreans and territory controlled by the UN Command.
That dividing line was supposed to be temporary. The armistice called for negotiations to begin within three months on a comprehensive political settlement for the peninsula.
And it called for all foreign troops — UN and Chinese — to be eventually withdrawn.
The Chinese did withdraw, as did the Canadians, British and most other UN forces. But the Americans, at the behest of the South Korean government they had set up, stayed. They are still there.
In violation of the armistice, the U.S. arbitrarily set the maritime boundary between the two Koreas. Between 1958 and 1991, the U.S. armed its forces in South Korea with nuclear weapons, another violation.
So when Pyongyang says, as it did this week, that the terms of that armistice have been breached by the UN side, it is not entirely inaccurate.
To assign blame for the standoff on the Korean peninsula is a mug’s game. Most historians agree that the Northern troops did invade the South in 1950. But they also agree that both North and South had been conducting raids into one another’s territory during the months before.
During the war, both sides committed unspeakable atrocities. Both lost hundreds of thousands of civilians although, thanks to UN bombing raids, the North lost markedly more.
The North has been a dictatorship since its inception. The South, while a military dictatorship for most of the post-war period, embraced democracy in 1987.
The UN side may have broken the armistice by keeping U.S. troops in the South. But the North broke the ceasefire in even more outrageous ways — from its assassination forays to its 2010 shelling of South Korean civilians.
The real question now is what to do next.
Washington’s insistence that the North give up its nuclear weapons is almost certainly a non-starter. The North’s leaders saw what happened when Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Libya’s Moammar Ghadafi abandoned their nuclear programs. They are unlikely to make the same mistake.
Sanctions against the North haven’t worked. And even with China agreeing to enforce them, they are unlikely to work in the future. North Korea has proven itself both stubborn and resilient.
Only two choices are left: Reignite the war that never ended or make peace. War against a nuclear-armed North Korea is madness. Peace talks on the basis of the 1953 armistice would surely make more sense.
North Korea has long insisted it wants normal relations with the U.S. and others. Why not call Pyongyang’s bluff?
As a country that, in a roundabout way, was a party to the 1953 armistice, Canada is in a good position to make the case.
Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.