15 Dec 2021 10:02 p.m.
Reports of an agreement to formally end the Korean War are not to be taken seriously. Peace on the Korean Peninsula would come at an inconvenience for the United States, who for a variety of reasons want to maintain the status quo.
A comment from Tom Fowdy
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has announced that “an agreement has been reached in principle” to resolve the conflict between North and South Korea that broke out in 1950 and was never officially declared over after the 1953 armistice. Moon added that all relevant parties including the US, China and North Korea had agreed to this move.
The peace-seeking president, who brokered talks during the tensions between Pyongyang and Washington in 2018 after Donald Trump began pursuing a “maximum pressure” strategy on North Korea, will be forced to resign in early 2022 due to strict tenure limits for South Korean presidents . He therefore endeavors to secure peace on the peninsula while he is still in office. Moon fears his political legacy will fail after conservative hardliner and presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol leads the polls for the upcoming election. Yoon is strictly against a peace with North Korea, which the incumbent president is now trying to negotiate.
Moon’s dream of an official end to the Korean War would be an absolutely significant historical breakthrough, one that would deserve great praise and that would change the political landscape of his country forever. But that’s part of the problem, which is why Moon’s advance may be idealistic, but nothing more. In the reporting of the BBC There is a statement about this latest development that addresses the cold reality of the situation: “But the talks have yet to begin.” This sentence sums up all the sticking points. In short, formally ending the Korean War is inopportune for the United States for a variety of reasons. So what is Biden going to do? Very simple: He will hold still until Moon leaves.
The US will never accept a formal end to the Korean War because maintaining the status quo on the peninsula is firmly anchored in its geopolitical interests. The frozen conflict enables Washington to station 30,000 soldiers in South Korea to deter North Korea, maintain operational command of the entire South Korean army and control the border between divided Korea, the so-called demarcation line, by means of its political weight at the United Nations. South Korea is a major pillar of the US military projection into Asia, with China in sight.
An end to the Korean War would immediately render the purpose and legitimacy of the American presence in South Korea obsolete, end the “US savior and protector” narrative, and strengthen oppressed political movements that are involved in both South and North Korea emphasize the demand that the US leave the country. In addition, a formal end to the Korean War would inevitably mean the end of communist North Korea as a defined enemy. For US strategists, politicians, and policy makers, these would be unacceptable options.
But that’s not all, because there are still pitfalls on the part of North Korea, which makes things even more difficult. The USA has dictated that all peace initiatives and any further engagement with North Korea may only take place under the premise of calling for a future denuclearization of the peninsula. However, Pyongyang views its nuclear program as the ultimate guarantee of national sovereignty and as non-negotiable. While North Korea stands ready to formally declare the war over, Washington knows full well that any intention of either side to do so would undo US military options, the only legal justification for which is the frozen conflict.
The signing of a peace treaty by the USA would effectively end its own state of war with North Korea and mean recognition of this state, which in turn would entail a massive loss of military and geopolitical power at the regional level. Instead, the US goal is to pacify Pyongyang through denuclearization while maintaining the status quo.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un is not naive enough to fall into this trap. His position is clear: the US must accept his country’s nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. The ideal scenario for North Korea would be to maintain its arms program, formally end the war, and see the US leave the peninsula so that it can then take steps towards reunification with the South on its own terms. But even that would not be an acceptable option for the US.
As a result, Moon Jae-in effectively finds himself a middleman trying to get the other parties to come to an agreement. He may speak of peace and try to facilitate dialogue, but the US’s dominant role in South Korea means that he is not sovereign in his approach to proclaim a formal end to the war in which his country is involved. The US does not shape its global dominance against the background of “good intentions”, which is ultimately the only thing that Moon has to offer in this case. In addition, the Biden government does not see North Korea as a priority due to its focus on China – and to a lesser extent Russia.
In addition, the persistence of a de facto state of war with North Korea continues to serve as legitimacy to press for Japanese rearmament, position Tokyo against China, and move additional arms and troops into the region. China, in turn, advocates a formal end to the war for precisely this reason, but would vehemently oppose a result that would amount to a capitulation of North Korea and bring the country into the sphere of influence of the USA.
Given all these considerations, the current stalemate will persist. If Yoon wins the elections in South Korea next March, peace can be forgotten altogether. He is likely to lead the country into an anti-North Korea and anti-China position. Into a new dynamic that goes against Moon’s desire to avoid the conflict between the US and China. Instead, all existing differences are likely to be cemented more firmly than ever.
RT DE strives for a wide range of opinions. Guest contributions and opinion articles do not have to reflect the editorial team’s point of view.
Translated from the English.
Tom Fowdy is a British political and international relations writer and analyst with a focus on East Asia. He tweets under @Tom_Fowdy
More on the subject – Seoul and Pyongyang are reestablishing direct communication channels