Go To Contents
Web Forums & Briefs
  • left_bnr_ap.gif
Title The 67th Anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement and No Peace on the Korean Peninsula Date 2020.07.29

Tae-Hwan Kwak

Attach (IFES Forum No 20-07-29).docx
On July 27, 2020, it marked the 67th anniversary of the Korean Armistice Agreement (KAA, 1953), and yet there is no permanent peace system on the Korean Peninsula. Although the Korean armistice system remains on the Korean Peninsula under international law, it is virtually at war.  Due to the recent hostile relations between Seoul and Pyongyang, the path to the peace system on the Korean Peninsula is rough and unclear.

Then, how should we build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula? Here are the essential prerequisites. First, a more robust binding peace treaty under international law than a peace agreement between Washington and Pyongyang should replace the unstable KAA system that has lasted 67 years.  The four parties, including the United States, China, and the two Koreas must sign a Korean Peninsula Peace Treaty.

Second, Seoul and Pyongyang faithfully need to observe and implement the September 19 Inter-Korean Military Agreement (2018) between President Moon Jae-in and Chairman Kim Jong Un at the inter-Korean level.  Through this peace process, the two Koreas will achieve the actual disarmament and confidence-building measures first.

Third, the cold war system on the Korean Peninsula, which still remains alive, should be dismantled by international norms and institutional arrangements, guaranteeing a peace treaty on the Korean Peninsula at the international level.

Even if the essential conditions of peace on the Korean Peninsula are absent, one should not be in fantasy as if peace on the Korean Peninsula is coming as long as a peace agreement between Washington and Pyongyang replaces the Korean Armistice Agreement. As long as there are structural factors that act as obstacles to the peace system on the Korean Peninsula, one cannot expect a permanent peace system. 

Therefore, the United States and the two Koreas must work together to create trilateral cooperation in the Korean peace process. First, the South and the North should implement April 27, 2018, Panmunjom inter-Korean summit agreement and the September 19, 2018, Pyongyang inter-Korean summit agreement, in particular, the Inter-Korean Military Agreement. If implemented, the North Korean 'siege mentality' will be free. 

Second, Seoul and Pyongyang should coordinate different approaches to establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has consistently maintained the conclusion of a US-DPRK peace accord since 1974. Pyongyang has insisted that if "all the US imperialists" "be ousted" from the Korean Peninsula, peace would come, insisting on the abolition of the ROK-US military alliance, the withdrawal of US troops from South Korea, and the signing of a US-DPRK peace agreement. However, the Seoul government cannot accept North Korea's claims and wants to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue first peacefully. Seoul insists on a multilateral peace treaty (agreement) on the Korean Peninsula through cooperation between the four concerned parties—the US, China, South, and North Korea.

Third, it is possible for the United States to propose a "new formula" to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula soon. Thus, if the long deadlocked Washington-Pyongyang dialogue/negotiations resume, the new phase of bilateral negotiations for denuclearization and the establishment of a non-nuclear-peace system will open a breakthrough in resolving difficult issues relating to the Korean Peninsula. 

Besides, the United States and China, which are key actors in establishing a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, want to replace the Korean Armistice Agreement with a multilateral peace treaty. Seoul and Pyongyang have agreed on the issue of the four parties, which will sign a peace treaty, in the joint declaration of the October 4, 2007, inter-Korean summit. In other words, three or four (US, China, North Korea, and South Korea) agreed to sign a peace declaration to end the Korean War. Recently, China expressed its desire to sign a peace treaty to replace the KAA. Thus, the four parties should sign ‘a Koran peninsula peace treaty.’ Pyongyang must observe the October 4 joint declaration.

With the 67-year-old Korean Armistice Agreement, a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula still has a long way to go. However, we hope that we will continue to be patient and consistent with achieving a non-nuclear-peace system. Peace on the Korean Peninsula is essential to stability and peace in Northeast Asia. There must be a cross-recognition between the four powers and the two Koreas in Northeast Asia. 

The United States and China as key players in the Koran peninsula peace process should continue to collaborate to resolve the Korean Peninsula issues and to cooperate so that the DPRK can turn into a healthy state as a responsible member of the international community. Lastly, we do hope that there will be a permanent peace system aimed at Korean unification, not a peace system adhering to the permanent division of the Korean Peninsula. <The end>

Dr. Kwak's short profile
Dr. Tae-Hwan Kwak, Professor Emeritus at Eastern Kentucky University, USA, former President of Korea Institute for National Unification, former Director of the Institute for Far Eastern Studies (IFES), Kyungnam University, Seoul, taught international relations and East Asian politics over thirty years in 1969-1999 at Eastern Kentucky University and South Korean universities. Dr. Kwak has authored, edited, and coedited 32 books, including One Korea: Visions of Korean Unification (Routledge, 2017). He has authored over 300 book chapters and scholarly articles in Korean, Japanese, and English. He is also active in NGO organizations in Seoul and Los Angeles.  Dr. Kwak, a recipient of the 2012 Global Peace Foundation's innovative scholarship for peace award, received an honorary degree in political science from Kyungnam University in June 2019. Email: thkwak38@hotmail.com. +1 310 729 8383 (Cell).