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North Koreans frustrated about delay in end-of-war declaration

Soldiers from the Korean People's Army. (Edward N. Johnson/U.S. Army)
July 30, 2018

North Korea officials are reportedly growing frustrated about delays in the official process to declare the end of the Korean War.

Kim Hong-gul, Chairman of the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation – and son of former South Korean president Kim Dae-jung – told the South China Morning Post that during his trip to the North Korean capital, officials were disappointed over the declaration talks.

“North Korean officials said they are frustrated about the delay and asked whether there is a valid reason for such slow progress,” Kim said.

According to Kim, North Korea believed significant progress had been made due to proposed concessions, and officials expected the South to reciprocate with their own. Additionally, North Korea wanted the end-of-war declaration to come before further progression in their denuclearization process.

“The North Koreans initially wanted a peace treaty but they are now asking for an end-of-war declaration,” Kim said.

North Korea reportedly won’t continue denuclearization talks until a permanent declaration is established, CNN reported.

At the Singapore summit between President Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, the two agreed to the “building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula” along with “security guarantees” for North Korea.

In April, North Korea and South Korea vowed to hold negotiations that would lead to an end-of-war declaration – The Panmunjom Declaration. A 1953 armistice halted the war after three years but it was never formally declared to be over.

The declaration involves talks between the two Koreas in addition to the United States, and possibly China.

South Korean officials are also hesitant to reduce U.N.-directed economic sanctions against the North.

“The North Koreans also complained at how Seoul is being too conscious of the U.N. sanctions regime and is somewhat passive in reviving inter-Korean economic projects,” Kim Hong-gul said.

North Korea’s frustration likely stems from their weak economy.

In 2017, their economy was down 3.5 percent compared to 2016. It was the largest decrease in more than two decades, a likely result of the economic sanctions levied by South Korea.

South Korea asked the U.N. Security Council to reduce economic sanctions that would enable smoother progress in negotiations between the two Koreas.

North Korea has been putting forth seemingly good faith efforts in denuclearization. Recent satellite images showed that one of the nation’s top missile testing facilities has begun dismantlement.

“North Korea will give up more only if sanctions are lifted, even partially,” Kim Hong-gul said. “A lifting of sanctions would give the regime the legitimacy to persuade its people to completely give up its nuclear capability to accelerate its economic development.”

He added that China would play a sensible role in the peace process leading to the end-of-war declaration.

“Seoul must put its efforts into including Beijing, and even Tokyo, to seek their support and cooperation in the peace-building process,” he said.

“The inter-Korean summit and summit of Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un were big diplomatic successes, but what comes next is more important,” Kim Hong-gul added.