North and South Korea agree ‘in principle’ to end war, 70 years after military hostilities ended

Pyongyang and US have conditions and reservations that will make goal hard to achieve

Ahmed Aboudouh
Monday 13 December 2021 16:38
<p>North Korea is thought to be reeling from a devastating economic crisis</p>

North Korea is thought to be reeling from a devastating economic crisis

North and South Korea, the US and China have agreed to declare a formal end to the Korean war, a conflict that ended in an unstable armistice in 1953.

South Korean president Moon Jae-in said the four countries had made a pact “in principle” to officially announce the war was over.

The Korean war, which ran from 1950 to 1953, divided the Korean peninsula into two countries. Since then, successive US administrations, China and the UN have failed to settle terms to end hostilities officially, making the two countries technically in a perpetual state of war.

However, Mr Moon added that talks had yet to begin on declaring the formal end because North Korea objects to US “hostility”.

Pyongyang has continually linked any agreement on ending the war to ending the presence of 28,500 American soldiers in South Korea, annual military exercises between the two sides and lifting the harsh US economic sanctions on the North.

Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, signalled in September her country’s possible support for talks but said the US had to end its “hostile policy” first.

“Because of that, we are not able to sit down for a discussion or negotiation on the declaration... we hope the talks will be initiated,” Mr Moon said at a joint press conference with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison in Canberra.

The South Korean leader also hopes that officially ending the war would encourage Mr Kim to revive the stalled negotiations on the North’s nuclear programme.

But ending the war seems an arduous goal to achieve due to differences in views.

The US has previously said it supports signing the agreement. But in October, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan signalled the US “may have different perspectives on the precise sequence or timing of conditions for different steps”, for reaching an agreement on a declaration.

Analysts believe that officials in President Joe Biden’s administration think that a war-end declaration would reward Mr Kim’s regime’s aggressive policies and multiple missile tests without scoring any concessions on the nuclear programme in return.

Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi has reportedly pledged his country’s support for “the push for the end-of-war declaration”.

North Korea is very isolated and reportedly reeling from a devastating economic crisis, for which last year Mr Kim remarkably apologised to his 25 million people. He also urged them to prepare for similar challenges to the “arduous march” of the 1990s when up to 3 million people are thought to have died of famine.

Experts believe the economic crisis to be a motivation for the north’s insistence on the US lifting economic sanctions as a condition for reaching an agreement on the end-of-war declaration.

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