South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said on Wednesday at a press conference that South Korea and the United States have agreed “in principle” on a draft to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War.
In an end-of-year press conference, Chung confirmed that the two countries have agreed on a draft for the end-of-war declaration they have been working on since South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed the initiative at the United Nations in September. Chung had also reaffirmed the agreement on a draft for the end-of-war declaration between the two countries with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the G-7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting in the United Kingdom that was held from December 11 to 12.
Chung said that South Korea and the U.S. agreed on the draft for the end-of-war declaration “in principle.” His remarks on the initiative indicate that there has been no substantive outcome to renew the deadlocked nuclear and inter-Korean talks in the last three months as Pyongyang has not been participating in talks with Seoul and Washington over the initiative.
Early this month, 35 U.S. Republican representatives sent a letter to the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan to oppose ending the Korean War. Some U.S. experts and analysts believe that ending the Korean War without completely denuclearizing North Korea could lead to the dismantlement of the U.S. military presence and U.N. Command stationed in South Korea, meaning South Korea’s security would be at stake by a growing North Korean nuclear and missile threat. Seoul’s rush for an end-of-war declaration, in their view, has come from Moon’s hope to cement a historical legacy. He has worked as a mediator between the U.S. and North Korea on the denuclearization process since he took office in May 2017.
On the other hand, there are questions over the willingness of the Biden administration to tackle the North Korea issue; it has not really shown any type of “calibrated and practical diplomacy,” the Biden administration’s new approach toward the North Korea issue, since the U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January. Some experts once said that the Biden administration’s approach toward the North Korea issue would not be explicitly different from the Obama administration’s “strategic patience” approach toward North Korea’s nuclear threats.
“We have made clear through our public messaging and private messaging as well that we are ready, willing, and able to engage in this diplomacy … we continue to hope the DPRK will respond positively to that outreach,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on the question over whether the U.S. had returned to an approach of “strategic patience” with North Korea and how things are going with North Korea in a press briefing on Tuesday.
After disputing the characterization of the Biden administration’s approach as the “returning to ‘strategic patience,’” Price said that the administration has “continued to seek engagement” with North Korea as part of the “calibrated and practical approach” and pointed out once again that the U.S. “harbors no hostile intent” toward North Korea. This message has continuously come with the phrase, “anytime, anywhere, with no preconditions,” by U.S. officials. Pyongyang has not responded to the offer.
Pyongyang has consistently demanded that Seoul and Washington cease their “hostile policy,” a reference to joint South Korea-U.S. military drills and the U.S. troops stationed on the Peninsula, as a precondition of Pyongyang returning to the negotiating table. Washington earlier proposed incentives related to the suspension of some parts of the crippling economic sanctions on Pyongyang unofficially as a possible enticement to restore dialogue, but Pyongyang shut its borders and has been isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic since early 2020. It has been adamant that Washington and Seoul should seek momentum to reactivate the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks and the inter-Korean dialogue.
Pyongyang has also blamed the U.S. as the main contributor to the “no-deal” Hanoi Summit in 2019. Then-U.S. President Donald Trump proposed a deal to completely denuclearize North Korea at the Hanoi summit but Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader, rejected the offer as he was interested in a phased denuclearization tied to the lifting of economic sanctions.
With the U.S. decision to diplomatically boycott the Beijing Winter Olympic Games amid persistent tensions with China, Seoul de facto lost its last hope to make progress on Moon’s peace process before the end of his term in May 2022. Some say that there might be an inter-Korean summit meeting or South Korea-North Korea-China trilateral meeting during the Beijing Games but Chung said it is unlikely to have summit meetings.