We Expect the ROK-US Summit to be a Pump-primer for the Peace
- 2021.05.26 (13:07:34)
Statment of People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy(PSPD)
We Expect the ROK-US Summit to be a Pump-primer for the Peace on the Korean Peninsula
18 May 2021
On May 21(local time), the ROK-US summit will be held in Washington D.C. This summit that is being held at the beginning of the last year of the term for President Moon, would be the first face-to-face meeting of the leaders of the two countries after the inauguration of President Joe Biden. We want to emphasize how this summit could be a critical chance to put the paused peace process on the Korean peninsula back on track and revive the talks between the two Koreas, the DPRK and the US. Thereby, we would like to request the two leaders the following subjects.
Firstly, the hard-earned agreement between the leaders of the two Koreas and between the leaders of the DPRK and the US should be respected. Two leaders should arrange for constructive practices to carry them out.
The agreements between the two Koreas, the DPRK-US in 2018 that were not easily obtained are precious results from the hard work of the governments of ROK and US to deal with the nuclear conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Each government should respect the agreements of 2018 and get together to bring forth functional ways to carry them out.
In the meantime, the ROK government did not show much willingness in fulfilling what was agreed on. Its actions to increase the defense budget and attempts to introduce offensive weapons contradicted how it spoke of continuing the conversation and improving the relationship. However, the military power of the ROK already overwhelms that of the DPRK. The defense budget of the ROK, being the tenth-largest military spending in the world, surpassed the GDP of the DPRK long ago. There is no need to increase the defense budget. The ROK government should protect the spirit of the Panmunjom Declaration that agreed on disarmament in a phased manner, by decreasing the defense budget and establishing military confidence. Along with these efforts, we need a foundation that could help restore the relationship between the two Koreas and which could also steadily carry out inter-Korean exchange and cooperation projects that were signed between the two Koreas. The cooperation of the US would also be essential. Specifically, the reunion of separated families and relatives is a human rights problem that cannot be postponed anymore.
Meanwhile, the DPRK has strongly requested the US to withdraw hostile policies since the emergence of the Biden administration. When we look back at the history of the DPRK-US negotiations, flexibility, dialogue and cooperation have led to positive results, whilst sanctions and pressure generally stalemated negotiations. The US should learn from the Hanoi summit that ended without an outcome and search for a realistic way to advance the talks. Washington should consider all possible methods, including easing the sanctions against the DPRK and establishment of a liaison office between the US and the DPRK. Right now is an important phase to build mutual trust by agreeing and performing phased and simultaneous actions. Once the trust is placed, they will be able to deal with more difficult problems. This is what ‘a calibrated practical approach’ of the Biden administration's North Korea policy should look like.
The Biden administration often problematized the human rights situation of the DPRK since it started off. However, human rights in the DPRK is not just a domestic problem but something on the scale of the Korean peninsula on which the war hasn’t ended. The efforts to improve the human rights of the DPRK should come in harmony with a better relationship between the ROK and DPRK, and the intentions to establish peace. Tomás Quintana, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the DPRK, mentioned in the 2020 report that he believes “a search for a peaceful conclusion of the conflict will generate the space and the conditions needed to further discuss denuclearization, better cooperation, increased access and human rights improvement.” We emphasize again that peace and cooperation, rather than sanctions and pressure, are the ways to actually alleviate the human rights situation in the DPRK.
Secondly, stop the ROK-US combined military exercises and make efforts to resume the talks
Conversations and military actions cannot coexist. The two governments should stop the ROK-US combined military exercises planned for August and give their best efforts to carry on the conversations with the DPRK. Military drills go against the Panmunjom Declaration that promised to cease all hostile acts between the two Koreas, and Joint Statement at the Singapore summit. The DPRK has been criticizing how the US didn’t keep its promise to cancel combined military exercises when the leaders of the three countries got together in Panmunjom, 2018. The ROK government describes its characteristic to be “a defensive one”, but it has not been confirmed whether the offensive operation plan of the two, that included preemptive strike against the North, has been changed.
Throughout the course of time, we experienced over and over how mistrust and hostility spiral into a war crisis once the conversations stop. But this time again, each government is more fixated on criticizing, holding drills, and reinforcing armament rather than improving the relationship and building trust. Actions to improve the relationship are certainly more urgent than to take military actions that would cause conflicts.
President Moon, in delivering a special speech to mark his fourth year in term, called the DPRK to come down to talk and that he “expects the DPRK to respond now that there is a chance to once again sit down face to face to negotiate”. However, we cannot expect the counterpart to change while the other two stay constant. We should be reminded of how the decision to suspend combined military exercises in 2018 drove the peace process on the Korean peninsula.
Thirdly, transfer the wartime operational control without conditions and withdraw THAAD
‘The conditions-based transition of wartime operation control(OPCON) of the ROK forces’, which was agreed between the governments of ROK and US, is a vague condition that works just to postpone the transfer without a deadline since the security situations are constantly volatile. It has been made clear that the transfer is not possible within the remaining term of President Moon, regardless of all the force improvement investments made to meet the conditions. Moreover, it works as another reason for the ROK-US combined military exercises to go on, which hinders the peace of the peninsula. The natural right to OPCON should belong to a sovereign country, and thus it has to be returned to the ROK without basing any conditions. The independent capacity of the ROK army to manage peace in the region should be strengthened as well.
The governments of ROK and US should withdraw THAAD that strengthens the Missile Defense system of the US and threatens the peace on the peninsula and Northeast Asia. Even now Seongju, Soseong-ri is seeing devices like generators and construction materials flooding into THAAD base every day. In order to secure the procedure, a large scale of police forces is stationed in the small town, violently dismantling the senior residents and activists who are against the deployment of THAAD. We cannot tolerate how the government pressures Korean people in order to meet the demands of the US. They are continuously working to upgrade the THAAD system, and the two governments are practically aiming towards a permanent deployment of THAAD that is here ‘temporarily’ at the moment. THAAD, which works as a linchpin of being incorporated into the US MD, should be instantly withdrawn from the ROK.
We believe the upcoming summit should work as a stepping stone towards the beginning of the conversations that were hanging midair and ignite the peace process on the Korean peninsula once again. We sincerely hope 2021 will be remembered as a year that made historical momentums for establishing a new U.S.–DPRK relations, ending the Korean War, and for the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and its peace.
▶ For Korean version see here
번역 : 윤혜원 자원활동가 / Translation : Hyewon Yoon
감수 : 참여연대 평화군축센터 / Proofreading : PSPD