North Korea Calls Peace-Deal Proposal by South’s Moon Jae-in Premature

North Korea Calls Peace-Deal Proposal by South’s Moon Jae-in Premature

Pyongyang says it sees continuing aggression from Washington and Seoul

North Korea dismissed a proposal by South Korea’s president for a peace declaration, calling the proposition premature as Pyongyang sees what it calls continuing aggression from Washington and Seoul.

During a speech Tuesday at the United Nations General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in suggested the adoption of a peace deal that would replace the armistice that halted hostilities in the 1950-1953 Korean War. He proposed that the U.S., along with the two Koreas and possibly China, agree to declare the war over.

Doing so, Mr. Moon said, would pave the way for “irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace.”

North Korea, in a pair of Friday state-media statements, rejected the timing of Mr. Moon’s proposal, while expressing some support for the underlying idea. A senior Pyongyang Foreign Ministry official said a peace declaration isn’t legally binding, adding that the biggest stumbling block was the U.S.’s “hostile policy” toward the Kim Jong Un regime.

Shortly after, Kim Yo Jong, the dictator’s sister, said a peace declaration could be adopted once the conditions are right, stipulating that Seoul must first drop its “prejudiced viewpoint, inveterate hostile policy and unequal double standards,” according to state media.

“Only when such a precondition is met, would it be possible to sit face to face and declare the significant termination of war and discuss the issue of the North-South relations,” said Ms. Kim, the regime’s main mouthpiece for relations with the U.S. and South Korea.

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled in recent years. North Korea contends that denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula means that the U.S. must drop its “hostile policy” policy toward the Kim regime. Those demands have come to include suspending military exercises, sanctions relief, and the withdrawal of American troops from South Korea and the U.S. security ring across the Pacific.

Those issues take priority over a peace deal for the country, said Rachel Lee, a nonresident fellow at 38 North, a website focused on North Korea.

“Pyongyang views an end-of-the-war declaration as a mere political gesture, albeit symbolic, that won’t fundamentally change the security dynamic on and around the Korean Peninsula,” Ms. Lee said.

The Korean War ended in an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, meaning the two Koreas technically remain at war.

Ending the state of war is a shared aspiration of the international community, which China supports, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, the day after Mr. Moon’s U.N. speech.

The U.S. is open to discussing a peace declaration and continues to seek engagement with North Korea, a Pentagon spokesperson said during a Wednesday press briefing. Biden administration officials have repeatedly stressed that the U.S. has no hostile intent toward North Korea.

Mr. Moon’s administration has repeatedly called for an end-of-war declaration, a less formal agreement than a peace treaty. In April 2018, when the two Koreas were engaging in bilateral talks, Messrs. Moon and Kim agreed to pursue a peace declaration to end the Korean War.

South Korea’s unification ministry reiterated Friday that a peace declaration is a political statement with important meaning and that Seoul would continue to pursue one.

North Korea has grown angrier in recent weeks and continued to ignore outreach by the Biden administration. Last week, Pyongyang returned to weapons provocations, conducting its first ballistic-missile test since March. The launch drew swift backlash from the U.S., Japan and others.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song took offense Friday over a recent U.S. intercontinental ballistic missile launch of its own, as well as the recent decision to transfer nuclear-powered submarine technology to Australia, among other matters. All were labeled as examples of hostile U.S. policy.

“All these facts prove that it is still too early to declare the termination of the war,” Mr. Ri said.

North Korea’s skepticism about pursuing a peace deal heightens pressure on Mr. Moon and South Korea to do more than make “bold concessions beyond a symbolic end-of-war declaration,” said Lee Sung-yoon, a Korea expert at Tufts University’s Fletcher School.

By Dasl Yoon and Timothy W. Martin

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