The Northeast Asian Context and the ongoing war on the Korean peninsula

Korean National Peace Committee

The skyline in Pyongyang, DPRK

It is well known that Northeast Asia is a very sensitive region in geo-political terms, in which there exists fierce competition between world powers as well as serious long-running disputes and confrontational structures in terms of territorial and historical issues. On top of this, the Korean peninsula, which is yet to see an end to the war and faces the risk of further war all the time, has become the world’s biggest hotspot.

The Korean peninsula is located at a strategic stronghold in Northeast Asia. If military confrontation and conflict continue to prevail and if a war were to eventually break out here, it would, in turn, plunge the situation in the whole area of NEA into extreme tension and could be a fuse for nuclear war worldwide.

Safeguarding peace and security on the Korean peninsula is an urgent task for bringing about the reunification of the country. Peace is as precious as life to the Korean people, since they have suffered innumerable misfortunes in the hottest, most unstable, most divided place in the world for over 70 years. However, the danger of nuclear war is ever increasing in the Korean peninsula, contrary to the desires and wishes for peace of our fellow countrymen.

In the 1950s, the United States started the Korean War with the purpose of dominating the whole of Korea. They are still staging large-scale war drills, picking on our satellite launch — our legitimate right — and the nuclear and rocket-launching tests for defending our sovereignty. Moreover, they are resorting to all sorts of cruel sanctions to rob our nation of its right to existence, abusing the UN as a stage for stifling our republic on the whole and outrageously violating international laws in order to conceal their nature as a devastator of peace.

History of the Armistice Agreement

The Korean War Armistice Agreement (AA) was concluded on July 27, 1953 to bring the three-year Korean War to a halt. An armistice is not meant to be a once-and-for-all end of the war, but a temporary cease-fire. The AA was adopted as an international legal document, which envisaged the establishment of a lasting peacekeeping mechanism on the Korean Peninsula, not as a temporary halt to belligerence.

Ever since then, for more than 60 years, the unstable cease-fire situation has prevailed over the Korean peninsula, which remains neither in a state of war nor peace. The abovementioned 60-year interval should not be simply regarded as maintaining or sustaining the AA. It is the period during which the US, the belligerent party and the world’s foremost nuclear power, has kept threatening the DPRK, the other warring party, with its nuclear arsenal and aggressor forces. It is also the historical period during which the DPRK has safeguarded its national sovereignty and right to existence with its self-defensive counter measures.

Despite the adoption of the AA, the USA has desperately blocked the peaceful settlement of the Korean issue while reinforcing aggressor forces in south Korea and introducing all sorts of war hardware, including weapons of mass destruction, into south Korea from abroad in a systematic violation of the AA. The AA was nullified a long time ago due to the USA’s persistent violations and consequently, the relationship between the DPRK and the USA turned from a mere technical state of war into a de facto belligerent state of war.

Peace Agreement and Confidence-Building

Recently, at several multilateral platforms such as the Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on NEA Security and the Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue, some have argued that it could be desirable for both the DPRK and the US to take confidence-building measures first, as the perspective on the conclusion of a peace agreement seems far-off.

In confidence building efforts, it is a prerequisite for the parties concerned to forge mutual trust that they can peacefully co-exist and cooperate to achieve co-prosperity. Having trust in the other party’s will for peaceful co-existence is the most basic and fundamental factor in confidence building. Without trust that the relevant party would neither invade nor do harm to the other party, it is unthinkable to build confidence among parties.

Requirements for a Peace Agreement

The first and foremost issue in confidence building on the Korean peninsula is that the DPRK and the U.S. should conclude a peace agreement in order to put a definite end to the state of war. The conclusion of a peace agreement is an urgent matter to be tackled without delay in light of the present situation on the peninsula, where a war may break out at any moment due to the nullification of the Korean Armistice Agreement (AA).

At the 7th Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in May 2016, the DPRK clarified that the US should roll back its anachronistic hostile policy towards the DPRK and replace the AA with a peace agreement, with a clear understanding of the strategic status of the DPRK which has proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear weapon states, as well as the general tendency of the times.

The stand of the DPRK government and people remains unchanged — to put an end to the state of war on a legal basis, and to establish a lasting peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula on a legal basis by signing a peace agreement with the US. However, if the US persistently sidesteps the DPRK’s demand for conclusion of a peace agreement and keeps posing extreme nuclear threats, the DPRK would physically remove the root causes of the state of war on the Korean peninsula with its powerful nuclear deterrent.

This is an urgent requirement stemming from the grave situation on the Korean peninsula — the world’s biggest hotspot and the site of a showdown between nuclear powers — to conclude a peace agreement and establish a durable peacekeeping regime. The conclusion of a peace agreement is a prerequisite for peace for the sake of legal and institutional guarantees, and would lay the groundwork for confidence building between the DPRK and the USA as well.

DPRK Nuclear Development and Subsequent Change in DPRK-USA Relations

The US’s persistent nuclear threats pushed the DPRK to join the advanced ranks of the nuclear weapons states and accordingly, turned the belligerent relations between the DPRK and the US into one that was between nuclear powers.

Times have changed and so has the DPRK’s strategic status. The DPRK’s successful test-fire of surface-to-surface intermediate strategic ballistic rocket “Hwasong-10” is a clear declaration that the US’s unilateral nuclear threats to the DPRK have come to an end. The powerful DPRK, which now possesses even the H-bomb, which is striving for a just international order while deterring the nuclear threats, blackmail, high-handedness and arbitrariness of the US.

Today, the belligerent relations between the DPRK and the US have fundamentally transmuted, and the strategic structure in Northeast Asia surrounding the Korean peninsula has also dramatically changed. Such a reality requires the replacement of the AA with a peace agreement, and the establishment of a long-lasting peacekeeping regime more urgently than ever.

The current belligerent relationship between the DPRK and the US on the Korean peninsula is no longer the same as the previous one, where the DPRK confronted the nuclear arms of the US with rifles. It is now a belligerent relationship between nuclear-armed states.

Previous DPRK-US Agreements

A string of agreements has been made between the DPRK and the US in the past through negotiations on confidence building measures. However, those measures remain unimplemented due to the absence of legal groundwork to guarantee their implementation and in particular, due to the USA’s persistent hostile policy toward the DPRK. Legal and institutional guarantees are also required to prevent any possible nullification of agreements between parties caused by every change of the administration in the US.

A typical example is the Agreed Framework between the USA and the DPRK, signed on October 21, 1994 under the Clinton administration. Some measures taken by both parties became were nullified and were in vain as the new Bush administration in 2002 vilified the DPRK as part of the “axis of evil,” and designated it as the target of a potential preemptive nuclear attack.

The establishment of an institutional mechanism for peaceful co-existence, legally backed by the conclusion of a peace agreement, would make it possible for both parties to agree upon and implement practical measures for confidence building, based on trust in each others’ will for peaceful co-existence.

The DPRK’s Sustained Efforts for the Conclusion of a Peace Agreement

Since the conclusion of the AA, the USA, the world’s largest nuclear power, has been threatening the DPRK’s sovereignty and its right to live while blocking the latter’s economic infrastructure building for peaceful development.

The DPRK has made sincere efforts for the conclusion of a peace agreement, out of the long-cherished desire to put an end to the state of war and achieve peaceful development free from any serious threat, as well as out of its responsibility to defend peace and security on the Korean peninsula and NEA. However, the US has systematically violated core provisions of the AA — such as Paragraph 60, which stipulates “the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Korea, the peaceful settlement of the Korean question etc.” by the concerted efforts of the Korean people.

The AA — which should serve as the clear legal ground for concluding a peace agreement — was nullified by the US less than one year after it was signed.

In response to the USA’s breach of the AA and the ever-increasing danger of war, the DPRK repeatedly proposed concluding a peace agreement on various occasions. The DPRK made such proposals to the USA and parties concerned in April, 1956 and to the US congress in March, 1974. As the cease-fire regime turned out to be no longer in effect due to the US in the early 1990s, the DPRK repeatedly proposed talks on the establishment of a new peace regime and in 1996, initiated the conclusion of a provisional agreement to replace the AA in order to prevent armed conflict between the two parties. It again proposed talks on a peace agreement to the AA signatories in January, 2010 on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean war. The DPRK proposed talks on a peace agreement yet again at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly in 2015 and on various other occasions, as required by the recently dramatically changed situation on the peninsula.

The issue of the conclusion of a peace agreement between the DPRK and the USA is not a new one raised recently, and the belligerent relationship between the DPRK and the US was not spawned by the former’s nuclear deterrence. It is well known that the DPRK has called for the conclusion of a peace agreement long before it had access to a nuclear deterrent force. This dates back to the post-war period of the 1950s, when the DPRK raised this issue with the US and the international community.

Thanks to the DPRK’s proactive and insistent efforts, a resolution was adopted at the 30th session of the UN General Assembly which called for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from south Korea and the conclusion of a peace agreement between the DPRK and the US. However, this has not been implemented yet due to the US’s desperate opposition. Our fair proposals and sincere efforts have so far led nowhere due to the challenge and opposition of the US, who is the main party concerned and holds the actual commanding power over the military in South Korea.

The US’s Aim Behind Sidestepping the Conclusion of a Peace Agreement with the DPRK

Since the 1950s, US administrations have persistently refused to respond to the DPRK’s fair proposal for the conclusion of a peace agreement and the establishment of a durable peacekeeping regime on the Korean peninsula and have instead resorted to war maneuvers, and the escalation of tensions. This is rooted in the USA’s hostile policy towards the DPRK and its strategy for world domination.

The US’s noisy fuss about the DPRK’s alleged threat is nothing more than an excuse for justifying its hostile policy and ambition for dominating the world. The US has aggressively enforced a hostile policy towards the DPRK across the spectrum of politics, economics and the military from the outset of the latter’s founding. The US has refused recognition of the DPRK as a sovereign state because the latter has a different political system from its own. It has imposed various economic sanctions on the DPRK to block its development and today those sanctions have become all the tougher, to the full extent of aiming to bring down the DPRK’s system.

Military Threats by the USA Against the DPRK

In military terms, the US stations its aggressor forces of approximately 28,000 in South Korea, and worse still, it has kept threatening the DPRK with nuclear weapons by way of calling in all sorts of strategic assets in and around the peninsula.

In recent days, the US is driving the situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of the outbreak of a nuclear war by openly conducting a “precision air raid operation” aimed at scorching the nuclear facilities and nuclear arsenal of the DPRK, while introducing its strategic assets into South Korea. This includes the nuclear-powered submarine “Mississippi” and a formation of B-52H nuclear strategic bombers. The US-South Korea joint military exercises against the DPRK are provocative and intrusion-oriented and as such, are the most vivid and specific evidence of a hostile policy towards the DPRK. The US seeks to justify these exercises as annual, defensive ones. However, no country would overlook its warring party’s military exercises taking place before its eyes.

Last year in 2016, the US staged the “Key Resolve and Foal Eagle 16” joint military exercises on the largest-ever scale with utmost hostility towards the DPRK. These exercises involved strategic assets and forces huge enough to fight a full war, as well as the extremely adventurous Operations Plan 5015. This was an integration of different operational plans such as the “decapitation raid operation”, a “precision strike drill” and “operation of storming Pyongyang” targeted at our supreme leadership, and launched under the simulation of an actual war.

The US launched a Missile Warning joint drill, the first of its kind, off Hawaii, together with Japan and South Korea, in late June 2016 under the pretext of protecting against the DPRK’s missile attack. This clearly reveals the US’s desperate attempt to lay the groundwork for forging a tripartite military alliance, by pushing South Korea to join the US-Japan Missile Defense system and to rationalize its THAAD deployment and gain the military upper-hand in the region.

The Real Intention of the USA

The USA’s persistent denial of the conclusion of a peace agreement with the DPRK is so prompted by its ulterior ambition for world domination by holding hegemony over Asia. It is believed that the US estimates that relaxation of the situation and the subsequent advent of peace on the Korean Peninsula would make it lose a good excuse for its military presence and reinforcement of forces in the region. This would, in turn, have adverse implications on their attempts to reign in big powers in the vicinity of the Korean Peninsula. For this reason, the US categorically avoids concluding a peace agreement and seeks to intentionally strain the situation on the Korean peninsula in an attempt to reinforce its justification for restraining and gaining military superiority over big powers in the region.

The US’s real intention is to contain the military expansion of China and undermine the strategic balance with Russia through the staged establishment of its Missile Defense System in East Asia as it did in Europe, along with the formulation of an Asian version of NATO built upon the tripartite military alliance of the US, Japan and south Korea.

The US’s insistence that denuclearization should take precedence over talks on a peace agreement is nothing but a nasty trick to conceal its deep-rooted hostile policy towards the DPRK and its ambition for domination over the world.

Proposals for simultaneous discussion on peace agreement & denuclearization

Some argue that a “simultaneous discussion” on the peace agreement and denuclearization could be a fresh solution to breaking the existing deadlock. However, this is an impracticable theory, drawn from ignorance of history and the essence of the confrontation between the DPRK and the US. A “simultaneous discussion” formula was tried and failed in previous dialogues, long before the DPRK became the fully-fledged nuclear weapon state as it is today.

The Six Parties already tried simultaneous discussions on the issues of a peace agreement and denuclearization in the 2000s, but those efforts ended in failure because of the belligerent relationship between the DPRK and the US and the ever-increasing US hostile policy towards the DPRK.

The conclusion of a peace agreement could be the first step in terms of the withdrawal of the US hostile policy towards the DPRK, but never the last step. Even if the state of war comes to an end through the conclusion of a peace agreement, the dangers of nuclear war could not be eradicated completely as long as the USA’s hostile policy and its ambition for world domination remain unchanged. The DPRK’s nuclear deterrence should be considered in the context of the complete withdrawal of the USA’s hostile policy, and global denuclearization. It is unthinkable to place in parallel the DPRK’s nuclear deterrence and a peace agreement, which is long overdue.

As vividly demonstrated to the world, the DPRK has proudly joined the advanced ranks of nuclear powers today. The DPRK’s access to nuclear weapons is the outcome of the USA’s hostile policy. It is not intended to be a political bargaining chip or to bring an economic deal to be put on the table of dialogue or negotiations.

The DPRK’s access to a nuclear deterrent force shall never be any kind of bargaining chip unless the USA’s hostile policy fundamentally comes to an end. How each party approaches the idea of a peace agreement is in itself a touchstone to distinguish the peace-loving forces from trigger-happy ones.

Implications of a Peace Agreement for Other Relations

Once a legal guarantee for peaceful co-existence between the DPRK and the USA is provided by the conclusion of a peace agreement, not only can DPRK-USA relations, but also issues of DPRK-Japan and the north and the south Korea relations be resolved. The DPRK stated that it would improve and normalize relations with countries that respect its sovereignty, and are friendly with the DPRK even if they had hostile relations with the DPRK in the past.

If the USA were to roll back its hostile policy towards the DPRK and make a bold decision to conclude a peace agreement without any excuses or preconditions, then the DPRK-USA relationship could see dramatic improvements on the basis of trust, giving impetus to confidence-building efforts in NEA.

Reunification

The current situation demands that the whole nation has to turn out more vigorously in the struggle to defend the three principles of national reunification, clarified in the July 4 Joint Statement (1972) between north and south Korea. The July 4 Joint Statement is a declaration for peaceful reunification which gave our fellow countrymen hope and confidence for national reunification.

The difference in ideologies and systems in the north and the south does not mean that fellow countrymen will fight among themselves on the issue of reunification. That the north and the south are capable of decreasing their differences by way of dialogue and negotiations, and achieving unity and cohesion and peaceful prosperity, has been proven in the days when our nation worked together in both the north and the south. The face-off and strife between the north and the south will only cause our nation to suffer from the calamity of war, from which foreign forces would profit.

The proposal was put forth in 1980 to establish a Democratic Confederal Republic of Koryo, a most fair reunification proposal which was an all-out implementation plan of the three principles of national reunification, to open up the bright prospect of reunifying the country peacefully.

The DPRK put forward the policy of developing economic infrastructure and building up nuclear forces simultaneously, to meet the demands of the rapidly changing situation and greatly strengthen the self-reliant defense power and preemptive striking capabilities with a nuclear force as a mainstay. This is an immortal contribution to defending the peace and security of our state and safeguarding the peace and stability of the world.

Korean National Peace Committee

The Korean National Peace Committee, founded on March 24, 1949, has striven vigorously to date, to achieve the peace and reunification of Korea and build an independent and peaceful new world free from war with the ideals of independence, peace and great national unity.

It has carried out various positive activities for 45 years since the publication of the July 4 Joint Statement to replace the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement for the Korean Peninsula, withdrawing US troops from south Korea and easing the tensions and military confrontation between the north and the south, while strengthening solidarity with international democratic organizations and anti-war and peace organizations of the world.

Progressive international organizations and national organizations, including the World Peace Council of which the KNPC is an executive bureau member, published many appeals and statements calling for the withdrawal of US troops from south Korea and denouncing the reckless annual joint war games staged by the US imperialists targeting the DPRK, to encourage our people greatly in their struggle to defend the peace and security of Korea.

In particular, in 2001 and 2002 an active signature campaign in support of the June 15 Joint Declaration and the Three Charters of National Reunification was launched to collect a total of 840,000,000 signatures from around the world. In 2003 the “Pyongyang international court on the crimes committed by the USA in Korea” was established to condemn and expose to the world the crimes of the top human rights violator, the USA.

In recent years, peace organizations around the world are taking an active part in various international meetings and solidarity events supporting the reunification of Korea, to increase the voices supporting the struggle of our people to defend peace on the Korean Peninsula.

National independence, the great unity of the nation, peacekeeping and attainment of a federal system are the policies of our Party, designed to bring about national reunification by implementing the Three Charters of National Reunification.

The KNPC will, in the future too, continue to strive for national reunification and peace in the region, holding fast to the Three Charters of National Reunification which the great leaders put forth and formulated, regarding them as a unique set of guidelines for the whole nation for the reunification of the country and to strengthen the friendship and solidarity with peace-loving people around the world. This is so that the DPRK may fulfill its mission to contribute towards ensuring peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.

Countryside in southern DPRK

The “Ulaanbaatar Dialogue on Northeast Asian Security” was initiated by the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj and launched in the capital of Mongolia in 2014.

The Northeast Asia Cooperation Dialogue (NEACD) is a multilateral “track II” forum involving high-level policy makers, foreign and defense ministry officials, military officers, and academics from China, Russia, North and South Korea, Japan, and the United States. It was founded in 1993 by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation of UC San Diego.

The Korean War Armistice Agreement,

Proposal made in a letter sent to US Congress from DPRK Foreign Minister in March 1974.

In a DPRK Foreign Ministry statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Statement by H.E. Mr Ri Su Yong, Minister for Foreign Affairs of The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea At the General Debate of the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, New York, 1 October 2015

Question of Korea, 2409th plenary meeting, 18 November 1975,

Three principles:
First, unification shall be achieved independently, without depending on foreign powers and without foreign interference.
Second, unification shall be achieved through peaceful means, without resorting to the use of force against each other.
Third, a great national unity as one people shall be sought first, transcending differences in ideas, ideologies, and systems.
.

National Reunification, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Official webpage,

Reflections on Peace and Security in Northeast Asia -Perspectives from the Ulaanbaatar Process-

CHAPTER 1: Northeast Asian Security and a Vision for a Nuclear Weapon-free Zone, CHAPTER 2: Korean Peninsula Security Issues and their impact on Regional Stability, CHAPTER 3: Civil Society Dialogue and Multi-Track Diplomacy in Peacebuilding in Northeast Asia

GPPAC Northeast Asia

Written by

Northeast Asia regional network of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), a global civil society-led network for peacebuilding.

Reflections on Peace and Security in Northeast Asia -Perspectives from the Ulaanbaatar Process-

CHAPTER 1: Northeast Asian Security and a Vision for a Nuclear Weapon-free Zone, CHAPTER 2: Korean Peninsula Security Issues and their impact on Regional Stability, CHAPTER 3: Civil Society Dialogue and Multi-Track Diplomacy in Peacebuilding in Northeast Asia