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A Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula
Concept of a Peace Regime on the Korean PeninsulaA peace regime on the Korean Peninsula refers to the establishment of peace that is solidly secured in legal, institutional and concrete terms by formally ending the state of war on the Korean Peninsula among the related countries with the two Koreas lying at the center. Since the armistice regime was established on the Korean Peninsula with the conclusion of the 「Korean Armistice Agreement」 of July 27, 1953, there have been continuous efforts to transform the armistice regime into a peace regime.
History of DiscussionsPursuant to Paragraph 60 of the 「Korean Armistice Agreement」, to ensure a peaceful settlement of the Korean Peninsula issue, the Geneva Conference took place from April to June 1954 with the participation of 19 countries. The ROK government sent a delegation headed by then Foreign Minister Byeon Yeong-Tae and aimed to produce substantial outcomes, suggesting 14 principles for the reunification of the Korean Peninsula. However, the conference ended without any fruitful outcome due to stark differences in views among participants concerning (1)the scope and methods of a general election to form a unified government; (2)acknowledgement of the UN’s authority and mandate in resolving issues with regard to the Korean Peninsula; and (3)the withdrawal of foreign forces, etc. This led to a prolonged state of armistice, which had originally intended to be only temporary.
In the 「Agreement on Reconciliation, Non-aggression and Exchanges and Cooperation between the South and the North」, which was signed at the 5th Inter-Korean High-level Talks in 1991 and entered into effect in 1992, the two Koreas agreed to work together to transform the current state of armistice into a solid state of peace between the two sides and abide by the present Military Armistice Agreement until such a state of peace would be accomplished.
In April 1996, the leaders of the ROK and the U.S. proposed the Four-Party Talks, which aimed to ease tensions and to build a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Accordingly, six rounds of the Four-Party Talks, in which the two Koreas, the U.S. and China participated, were held to discuss a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula from 1997 to 1999. However, due to huge gaps in positions concerning issues such as the parties to the peace agreement as well as relations between a peace regime and the alliance, the Four-Party Talks failed to produce fruitful outcomes.
During the 2000s, the Six-Party Talks took place in an effort to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue. There was a need to discuss the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula along with the North Korean nuclear issue. Thus, in the 「Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks」 on September 19, 2005, and the 「Second-Phase Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement」 on February 13, 2007, it was agreed that the directly related parties would negotiate a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula at an appropriate separate forum.
Furthermore, in the 「Declaration on the Advancement of South-North Korean Relations, Peace and Prosperity」, announced at the 2007 Inter-Korean Summit, the two Koreas recognized the need to end the current armistice regime and build a permanent peace regime. The two sides also agreed to work together to ensure that the leaders of the three or four parties directly concerned would convene on the Peninsula and declare an end to the state of war. However, with the Six-Party Talks stalled, the discussions on a peace regime also halted for a considerable period of time.
With three inter-Korean summits and the first U.S.-North Korean summit held in 2018 respectively, discussions of a peace regime were revitalized. In the 「Panmunjom Declaration on Peace, Prosperity and Reunification of the Korean Peninsula」, adopted at the first inter-Korean summit in 2018, the two sides agreed to declare the end of war in 2018, which marked the 65th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement, and actively promote the holding of trilateral meetings involving the two sides and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two sides, the United States and China, with a view to replacing the Armistice Agreement with a peace agreement and establishing a permanent and solid peace regime. In addition, in the Joint Statement signed by the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea, the two sides agreed to join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.