Watch Report No.27 November 30, 2020
“The end-of-war declaration will, indeed, open the door to complete denuclearization and permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.”
This statement made at the General Debate of this year’s UN General Assembly  by South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for the UN and the international community to provide support so that the Republic of Korea (South Korea) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) can enter into “an era of reconciliation and prosperity” by means of an end-of-war declaration.
Soon after achieving liberation from Japanese colonial rule as a result of Japan’s defeat in the Asia-Pacific War, North and South Korea were intentionally divided into two countries by great powers. The Korean War which started soon after the division has not formally ended to date. How the upcoming change of the US administration will affect its policy towards the DPRK has drawn much attention. However, we need to recognize the simple common sense diplomatic solution once again, that is, “the end of the Korean War declaration will open the door.”
Undoubtedly, the DPRK has developed nuclear weapons as deterrence against US aggression. And as UN ambassador of the DPRK Kim Song stated at the General Debate of this year’s UN General Assembly , the DPRK perceives that US threat against the DPRK still continues.
“ …the nuclear threat on DPRK continues unabated along with all sorts of hostile act taking place before the very eyes. It is an undeniable reality of today that cutting-edge military hardware including stealth fighters continue to be introduced into the Korean peninsula and nuclear strike means of all kinds are directly aimed at the DPRK.”
Although UN Ambassador Kim Song didn’t name a state, it is obvious that the DPRK means it is the US that is engaged in “hostile act” against the DPRK and poses “the nuclear threat” to the DPRK. Regarding the military buildup in which South Korea has engaged, based on the US-ROK alliance, the DPRK also considers the US as driving force behind this buildup.
Additionally, since 2018, DPRK nuclear policy has made it clear that war deterrence based on nuclear weapons will establish preconditions for directing all its national efforts to the construction of a socialist economy . The above-mentioned statement by UN Ambassador Kim Song described the policy as follows:
“The conclusion we have drawn is that peace never comes of itself by mere wish of one side and it is not granted by someone else either. In the present world, where high-handedness based on strength is rampant, genuine peace can only be safeguarded when one possesses the absolute strength to prevent war itself. As we have obtained the reliable and effective war deterrent for self-defence by tightening our belts, peace and security of the Korean peninsula and the region are now firmly defended.
Based on its reliable guarantee for safeguarding the security of the state and people, the DPRK is now directing all its effort to economic construction at ease.”
Thus, the DPRK has justified its possession of nuclear weapons as a war deterrent for self-defense and economic development, and as a natural consequence, the DPRK government has repeatedly expressed it is ready to abandon its nuclear weapons on the condition that US threat against the DPRK is eliminated. In March 2018, Chairman Kim Jong-un told a South Korean delegation that there is no reason for keeping nuclear weapons if the military threat against the DPRK is eliminated. And “the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” to which Kim Jong-un committed at the US-DPRK summit in June 2018 was agreed upon along with President Trump’s commitment of “security guarantees to the DPRK,” and mutual commitments to the “establishment of new US-DPRK relations” and “building of a peace regime,” and others .
Therefore, elimination of US threat and ending of the US hostile policy towards the DPRK are essential conditions to realize a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.
Here lies the significance of the end-of-war declaration.
It is self-evident that to put an end to a state of war lasting for 70 years is a logical first step in a process to eliminate the US threat and hostile policy toward North Korea. It is unlikely that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons upon which the country completely relies as deterrence against the US as long as the Korean War does not formally end and the US hostile policy towards the DPRK continues. President Moon Jae-in’s statement that, “The end-of-war declaration will, indeed, open the door to complete denuclearization and permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” articulates the correct path forward.
The US is not the only party to the Korean War. However, it’s no exaggeration to say that realization of the end-of-war declaration depends on willingness of the US government to act. Ever since the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed among the US, the DPRK and China in 1953, an armistice has continued, and then during armistice, the US and South Korea established diplomatic relations and normalized relations with China. Also, South Korea and the DPRK made the Panmunjom Declaration in April 2018 and agreed to make the end-of-war declaration in 2018, which wasn’t actually realized. In addition, at the third Moon-Jae-in and Kim Jon-un inter-Korean summit in September 2018, the two countries signed “The Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain” as an annex to the 2018 Pyongyang Declaration and agreed to “cease all hostile acts against each other in every domain” including land, air and sea , and made a de facto end-of-war declaration between the two countries.
What remains to address is the US-DPRK relationship, and although the DPRK has proposed negotiations towards the end of the Korean War and a peace treaty, the US has rejected such proposals.
There are various reasons why the US cannot go as far as the end-of-war declaration. Not only US security policy related to South Korea, Japan and China, but factors related to US world military strategy are involved. Additionally, the domestic situations of US allies such as South Korea and Japan are also part of the picture. In those countries, public opinion regarding the future of the alliance with the US has remained divided over the past several decades and this has weakened the leverage of South Korea and Japan to demand the US government to make a policy decision regarding this issue.
Regarding the US government, its true intention may be that it doesn’t want to make the end-of-war declaration. It could lead to an unavoidable argument on the reduction or even withdrawal of the US Forces in South Korea and Japan that play a critical role in supporting US global military and economic hegemony, along with other US military bases all over the world. Once the end of the Korean War is declared, the mission of the United Nations Command (UNC) will be accomplished, inevitably leading to discussion about the future of the US Forces, Korea (USFK). Especially, under the current situation in which the US has been trying to contain and restrict China, a rapidly rising global military and economic power, the US would be inclined to avoid making decisions which will lead to weaken the US military power in East Asia. Additionally, there are defense industries and politicians who have benefited from leaving military tension to persist in East Asia. Or, if the US agreed to make an end-of-war declaration, which is considered a North Korean demand, prior to denuclearization of North Korea, some might interpret such moves as “concession” or “a weak-kneed attitude.” In fact, media repeated critical coverage of President Trump who had expressed his readiness to end the Korean War at the Singapore summit, reporting that Trump is seeking “political theatrics” for historic achievement  and trying to “make an achievement” for the sake of “the 2018 US midterm elections” . Eventually, it seems that President Trump is likely to leave the White House without making an end-of-war declaration.
In South Korea and Japan, not a few people see the US military presence is necessary for maintaining regional peace and security. Despite President Moon Jae-in’s enthusiasm, for the South Korean government to be able to urge the US to make the end-of-war declaration, there are a number of domestic issues to be resolved regarding the future of the US-ROK alliance. Such issues include the already decided purchase of US state-of-the-art weapons South Korea, how to handle the Terminal High-Attitude Area Defense (THAAD) system and troops deployed under the pretext of DPRK missile threat, consensus building towards reduction of rapidly increased national defense spending on the grounds of DPRK threat, and other issues.
The Japanese government has also continued a military buildup using the rationale of the DPRK threat. The United Nations Command (UNC)-Rear is headquartered in Japan, serving as an existing mechanism for Japan to host visiting foreign troops other than those of the US and to conduct joint military exercises with the Japan Self-Defense Forces.
Regardless of such domestic situations in the US and related countries, there is no justifiable reason to oppose ending the Korean War. Such self-interested intransigence is unacceptable as the US, as well as its followers in South Korea and Japan, to retain a state of war for the purpose of securing its hegemony and vested interests.
When governments are unable to do the right thing, the impetus for governments to overcome obstacles must be generated by civil society. It is necessary that, in response to President Moon Jae-in’s call for an end-of-war declaration, voices of civil society unite across national borders. These voices that call for an end to the Korean War will be heard by the US government and, if necessary, other related countries’ governments. Strong and worldwide campaigns like those calling for abolition of nuclear weapons and measures against Climate Change are required.
More than 350 South Korean civil society organizations and others have issued the “Korea Peace Appeal”  and have been conducting “a campaign which aims to end the Korean War through collecting 100 million signatures to endorse the Korea Peace Appeal.” We would like to earnestly support this initiative. This campaign puts forth the following four slogans:
l End the Korean War and establish a peace agreement
l Create a Korean Peninsula and a world free from nuclear weapons and nuclear threat
l Resolve the conflict with dialogue and cooperation instead of sanctions and pressure
l Break from the vicious cycle of the arms race and invest in human security and environmental sustainability
Such a campaign will help grow global public awareness and support for the End-of-War Declaration of the Korean War. (Hajime MAEKAWA )
 Address by
President Moon Jae-in at the 75th Session of United Nations General Assembly,
September 22, 2020.
https://estatements.unmeetings.org/estatements/10.0010/20200922/cVOfMr0rKnhR/vstE46z3tXBY_en.pdf Statement by Head of the DPRK Delegation H.E. Ambassador Kim Song, Permanent Representative of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the United Nations at the General Debate of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, September 29, 2020. https://estatements.unmeetings.org/estatements/10.0010/20200929/azzQgcBAMYqv/WaUGJrE2AJvT_en.pdf
 For example, “Kim Jong Un Makes New Year Address,” KCNA, January 1, 2018 or “Report on 5th Plenary Meeting of 7th C.C., WPK,” KCNA, January 1, 2020. http://www.kcna.co.jp/index-e.htm Search for the articles by date.
 Joint Statement of President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea at the Singapore Summit, White House, June 12, 2018.
 “Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain,” the National Committee on North Korea, September 19, 2020.
 “Trump referred to an end to the Korean War and indicated the possibility of the signature, to make the US-North Korea dialogue historic” (tentative translation), The Asahi Shimbun, June 9, 2018 (in Japanese).
 “The US-North Korea dialogue will be an achievement before the midterm election for the US and the dialogue became possible because North Korea had completed nuclear weapons,” (tentative translation) The Mainichi Shimbun, June 8, 2018 (in Japanese).
 Text of the Appeal: https://en.endthekoreanwar.net/appeal