A Thorny Path Towards Lasting Peace in Korea

The main reason why there is no progress in resolving the Korean issue is not the alleged “intractability” on the part of Pyongyang but the United States’ striving to implement its geopolitical plans in the region.

Addressing the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, DPRK Foreign Minister Ri Su Yong called for the signing of a peace treaty between his country and the United States. Though once again rejected by the US, his offer seemed quite timely against the backdrop of the recent upsurge of tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

This unprecedentedly lengthy conflict has its roots in Korea’s post-WWII division and differences among the two Korean states as to how to achieve reunification and, most importantly, what socioeconomic system and foreign policy a united Korea would have.

The Korean War (1950–1953) was an attempt to solve the problem by force. The conflict, which has started as a North-South civil war, became internationalized because of the US intervention – the United States happened to be the first foreign country which sent its troops to Korea. Since then the peninsula has turned into arena of confrontation of the four major powers – the USA, the USSR, China and Japan. The situation is aggravated by the persisting irreconcilable antagonism that exists between the ruling elites of the DPRK and the Republic of Korea (ROK).

Repeated attempts to bring closure to the Korean War have all proved a failure. As a result, there is a 60-year-old military truce but no clarity about precisely what parties should sign a peace treaty which is supposed to replace the existing Armistice agreement.

North Korea insists on talks with the United States since South Korea refused to sign the truce in 1953. Pyongyang’s another argument, according to the DPRK Foreign Ministry’s statement on October 17, 2015 - South Korea has no operational control over its own armed forces and therefore it makes no sense to negotiate with it. In fact, in case of a new war in Korea the ROK armed forces would automatically come under the command of the American general in charge of the 29,000-strong US contingent stationed in South Korea since the Korean War. Moreover, the order to put the South Korean army on the war footing can only come from the same general, who is simultaneously the commander of the UN forces in Korea.

The UN command in Korea was created on the basis of UN Security Council resolutions within the first few days of the war. But there are different views on the legitimacy of these resolutions. It was Taiwan that held the Security Council seat of the just established People’s Republic of China in that period. Moscow, as a sign of solidarity with Beijing, was boycotting the Security Council meetings, chaired by a Guomindang representative. Thus, the five concurring votes required for approving these resolutions were lacking. Nevertheless, the UN Security Council did pass a number of resolutions, of which both Moscow and Beijing prefer to be not reminded of nowadays.

The “UN command” is yet another anachronism of the Cold War period. Both North and South Korea are UN member-states since 1991, but it looks like the world body remains in a state of truce with one of its members – the DPRK. It is high time for Moscow and Beijing to analyze what a negative role this US-controlled remnant of the Cold War can play in case of any crisis on the peninsula in the future and decide how to put an end to the American abuse of the UN name and flag in Korea.

The main reason why there is no progress in resolving the Korean issue is not the alleged “intractability” on the part of Pyongyang but the United States’ striving to implement its geopolitical plans in the region. These plans are about containing China and Russia and forcing them to comply with the US-led world order.

The Americans benefit from maintaining a certain level of tensions on the peninsula. This enables them to justify the 65-year-old forward deployment of the US troops near the borders of Russia and China in the Northeast Asia and to deploy their missile defense system in the region under the pretext of a hypothetical North Korean “missile threat.” The US final aim is to change the regime in the DPRK and unify the peninsula under its patronage. Thereby it will acquire a strategic bridgehead wedged between the Russian Federation and the PRC, a bridgehead the military importance of which seems to be clear to far from all people in this country.

Contrary to its declarations, Washington is not planning any normalization of relations with Pyongyang. However, this doesn’t rule out the periodic use of the negotiating track, as is evident from the signing of the US-DPRK Agreed Framework in 1994, or the holding of the four-party (1997–1998) and even the six-party (2003–2008) talks. But this is clearly used as a tactical ruse to gain time, pose as a “peacemaker,” identify the opponent’s weak points, and create a “united front” for pushing its demands. In the last few years, Washington has also been hoping to sow discord and distrust between Beijing and Pyongyang in order to isolate the latter.

The US political elite is not yet ready to recognize the DPRK’s right to exist or establish diplomatic relations with this country since normalization of the US-DPRK relations would make it impossible to exploit the mythical “North Korean threat.”

As for the DPRK, its 40-year-long efforts to resolve this problem are evidence that Pyongyang is well aware that North Korea will be unable to ensure, at least partly, its security or put an end to the US economic blockade that has lasted since the Korean War unless it finds a certain compromise with Washington.
Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.