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North Korea

North Korea’s insistence on a ‘peace treaty’ aims only to divert attention from its nuclear programme

Donald Kirk says North Korea’s demand for peace talks to end a war that’s already ended must not be entertained if its nuclear ambitions are off limits

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 March, 2016, 12:16pm
UPDATED : Friday, 11 March, 2016, 12:15pm

Talk about a “peace treaty” for ending the Korean war rests on several contradictions. Foremost is the oft-repeated line that we’re still “technically at war”. War means shooting, bombing, killing. The Korean war ended in July 1953 with the signing of a truce or armistice. We’ve had numerous bloody “incidents” since then, but so far no more real war.

How can the North demand a ‘peace treaty’ while spewing forth rhetoric about turning South Korea into ‘a sea of fire’ and sending a nuclear-tipped rocket all the way to Washington DC?

So why do people keep insisting on a “peace treaty” to “end” the war that’s already ended?

The calls have come loudest and longest from North Korea, but how can the North demand a “peace treaty” while spewing forth rhetoric about turning South Korea into “a sea of fire” and sending a nuclear-tipped rocket all the way to Washington DC to destroy the White House?

Who, for that matter, should consider a response to demands for a treaty when North Korea won’t consider halting its programme for building nuclear warheads and missiles, despite sanctions passed by the UN Security Council with the unanimous support of all members?

Sadly, North Korea’s demands for a treaty have won the support not only of the Chinese but also of a number of academics and so-called peace groups in the United States and elsewhere.

They blame America for its reluctance to enter talks with the North while Pyongyang issues insults and diatribes along with serious threats.

Most disheartening, North Korea’s pleas for talks about a “peace treaty” are getting through.

READ MORE: Pyongyang to continue nuclear tests as long as US is ‘continuously invading’ its sovereignty

READ MORE: More sanctions won’t end the Korean nuclear crisis, but engaging Pyongyang in talks might

Diplomats are now saying: “Why not talk about a treaty if we put the nuclear issue on the agenda?” They’re suggesting that these talks could “parallel” one another.

North Korea’s initial response was to say treaty talks could not include the nuclear programmme. But what if Pyongyang agreed to talk about nukes, too? Of course, North Korea would go into the talks with no notion of abandoning its nuclear programme while pressing for the treaty.

Abandonment of the North’s nuclear programme has to be the first item on any agenda

Equally important, the North Koreans, as a condition for any treaty, would demand the US withdraw virtually all its troops. One can only imagine the North Korean propaganda, as it called for a halt to all military exercises and the closure of US bases.

The prospect of such talks is so ridiculous that it’s not likely that US President Barack Obama will consider them during the remainder of his term. He would prefer to kick that whole issue down the road and into the hands of his successor.

Whoever wins the presidential election in November, we have to hope that the US would not consider talks about a peace treaty without the preconditions that North Korea has already rejected. Abandonment of the North’s nuclear programme has to be the first item on any agenda.

And South Korea has to have a seat at the table as a full and equal participant and partner.

Donald Kirk is the author of three books and numerous articles on Korea