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North Korea

For sake of stability, US should sign peace treaty with Pyongyang

The Korean war, technically, is still not over, allowing the Kim Jong-un regime to continue apace with developing nuclear and other weapons

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 3:06am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 April, 2017, 3:06am

The dispute between North Korea and Malaysia over the killing of the half-brother of leader Kim Jong-un at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport is poles apart from the isolated nation’s nuclear and weapons programmes. Yet the negotiations that led to the release of citizens from each country who had been caught up in the row is an invaluable lesson.

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The limited impact of United Nations sanctions and a refusal by the United States to open talks has enabled the uninterrupted development of weapons, each fresh test further endangering regional stability. Pyongyang is willing to discuss peace with Washington and there is no more viable way of ending the threat.

US President Donald Trump has shown no sign of changing his country’s long-standing position that there will be no peace talks until the North takes irreversible steps towards denuclearisation. But Kim’s regime refuses to accede and has taken advantage of the status quo to improve its missiles and, presumably, miniaturise nuclear warheads.

A missile shield being constructed by the US in South Korea does not guarantee protection and worse, has damaged relations with Beijing, which is understandably angry about the spying capabilities of the system. Trump wants China to exert more pressure on the North, but it has done all it is willing to. A treaty to finally end the 1950-53 Korean war with an agreement limiting arms is the best chance to halt hostilities.

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Pyongyang considers Washington the biggest threat to its survival. But it is willing to negotiate, as the deal struck with Malaysia proves. Last Friday, the North allowed nine Malaysians, most of them diplomats, to go home in return for the body of Kim’s estranged half-brother, Kim Jong-nam, and the exit of North Koreans who had been barred from leaving Malaysia. It took more than three weeks of bargaining, but an amicable agreement was eventually reached.

Malaysia is among a handful of nations to have good ties with the North. Pyongyang’s relations with Washington could not be worse: they only signed an armistice in 1953 and are technically still at war. No government wants another such conflict; talks with the aim of signing a treaty are the best way forward.