July 27 marked the 60th anniversary of the signing of the armistice agreement for the Korean War, which broke out on June 15, 1950. On the Korean Peninsula, the armistice continues, but it is neither war nor genuine peace. North Korea has the key to change the situation for the better.
The prerequisite for improving the situation on the Peninsula is that the North faithfully implement past agreements produced by the six-party talks on the North’s nuclear weapons program. Only when this happens will other countries cooperate with North Korea to change the armistice agreement into a peace treaty with the United States, which Pyongyang wants badly.
In December 2012, North Korea launched a long-range rocket to put what it called a satellite into orbit, showing off its capability to build a long-range missile. In February 2013, it carried out its third nuclear explosion test.
The North announced March 11 that the 1953 Korean War armistice was null and void and declared March 30 that it had entered a “state of war” with South Korea.
These were acts of provocation that greatly deviated from the norm of the international community. They only deepened North Korea’s isolation.
In and after May, North Korea appears to have started to pursue dialogue with neighboring countries. It accepted the visit to Pyongyang of Mr. Isao Iijima, a former secretary of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and currently an aide to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Vice Marshal Choe Ryong Hae, director of the General Political Bureau of the Korean People’s Army, visited Beijing.
Pyongyang also started talks with Seoul to reopen the Kaesong industrial park in North Korea, where South Korean businesses run factories.
North Korea also started talking about resuming other dialogue forums including the six-party talks. It seeks dialogue in order to turn the armistice agreement into a peace treaty.
At present, though, there is no prospect that meaningful dialogue will be held because what the international community wants first and foremost is denuclearization of North Korea.
Pyongyang should keep in mind that unless there is denuclearization of North Korea, there will be no peace treaty. Its leadership should also recall that its military-first policy line and its isolation in the international community caused by this longtime policy made North Korea fall way behind South Korea in the economic race.
In the Sept. 19, 2005, joint statement of the six-party talks, North Korea “committed to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs,” while the U.S. and North Korea would undertake “to exist peacefully together and take steps to normalize their relations subject to their respective bilateral policies.” The six parties also committed to joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Northeast Asia and agreed to discuss matters at an appropriate separate forum.
North Korea must recognize that it must first implement without fail the past agreements born out of the six-party talks if it wants such a forum to be set up.