Three Democratic members of Congress introduced a resolution to formally end the Korean War as President Donald Trump prepares to meet for a second summit with North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Un on Wednesday.
Reps. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Andy Kim (D-N.J.) introduced the non-binding resolution on Tuesday as a sign of support from Congress ahead of the Hanoi, Vietnam, summit where Trump and Kim Jong-Un could announce an agreement to officially end the war.
“This was our effort to signal ahead of those talks that Congress is certainly hopeful that they’ll be successful,” Rep. Kim, a former diplomat and the only Korean-American in Congress, said.
“It’s important for progressives and Democrats to support the president and administration’s efforts as they engage in dialogue with North Korea,” Khanna said. “We’re rooting for a successful outcome.”
This might be a little ironic, Khanna noted, as he will be questioning Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen at a public hearing of the oversight committee and the Democrats will vote to overturn the president’s emergency declaration on Wednesday.
“We all have to be patriots and put the nation and world interests first,” Khanna noted. “And I don’t see how any American can’t be rooting for a successful outcome in these talks in Vietnam.”
“The Possibility Is There”
The Democrats’ resolution calls for the U.S., South Korea and North Korea to enter into a formal peace treaty to the end the 1950-1953 war that ended in a United Nations negotiated armistice.
The relationship between South Korea and the U.S. would not be imperiled by a peace treaty, according to the resolution. The U.S. promise to defend South Korea against any future attack would still be in effect. And the future of the 28,000 U.S. troops deployed to South Korea is for the south and the U.S. to discuss alone, “whether a declaration to end the Korean war or any final peaceful settlement is achieved.”
A potential peace treaty has always been a central piece of negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea about the latter’s nuclear weapons program since President Bill Clinton and Defense Secretary Bill Perry began the process in the 1990s. As the U.S. has sought denuclearization from North Korea, the north has asked for international recognition and the security guarantee of a peace treaty from the U.S., along with relief from sanctions.
In playing the leading role bringing Trump and Kim Jong-Un together, South Korea’s liberal president Moon Jae-in has pushed the U.S. and North Korea to agree to officially end hostilities and the war as a sign of goodwill to encourage denuclearization of the peninsula.
“North Korea knows it needs (to take) clear denuclearization steps to see international sanctions lifted and the United States also realizes that reciprocal measures are needed to match these North Korean denuclearization steps,” Moon said at a Jan. 10 press conference.
South Korean officials expressed their hopes that Trump and Kim Jong-Un announce some kind of end-of-war declaration in Hanoi.
“The possibility is there,” Kim Eui-kyeom, a Moon spokesman, told a press briefing on Sunday, according to Reuters.
South Korean Government’s Top Priority
Ending the Korean War and normalizing relations with North Korea has been the top priority of Moon’s government ever since he came to office following a corruption scandal that sent his conservative predecessor Park Geun-Hye to prison. One of the biggest partisan divides in South Korea since the establishment of South Korean democracy in 1987 is over relations with the north. Conservatives take a martial approach of adamant opposition to North Korea while every previous liberal president has sought to open up relations and strike a peace deal.
Moon has made the most of the small window offered to him to do just that. (South Korean presidents are limited to one five-year term.)
He visited North Korea for a summit with his counterpart Kim in September 2018. The two leaders agreed to begin disarming their border through the removal of landmines, weapons and personnel and the destruction of guard posts. They also agreed to freer flow of people and the reopening of economic zones.
“The South and North today have agreed to remove every threat in all areas of the Korean Peninsula that can cause war,” Moon said at the time. “By creating the Korean Peninsula as a permanent space for peace, we will be able to return the normality of our lives.”
While Moon’s overall popularity has fallen due to poor economic numbers including high youth unemployment, his approach to North Korea is generally popular. Over 70 percent of South Koreans approving of the result of the summit and Moon’s policy toward North Korea, according to one poll taken after the first U.S.-North Korea summit in 2018.