Frequently Asked Questions

Why do we need a Korea peace treaty or agreement?

The Korean War (1950-’53) never ended but was merely suspended by an armistice agreement between North Korea (representing the Korean People’s Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteers) and the United States (representing the multinational United Nations Command). While the Korean War no longer consists of active fighting, hostilities between the two parties have remained high, resulting in the extreme militarization of the Korean Peninsula.

Without a peace treaty or agreement, war could break out at any time. And if war erupted on the Korean Peninsula today, it’s estimated that as many as 300,000 people would die in the first few days of conventional fighting. Because of provisions in the U.S.-R.O.K. Mutual Defense Treaty and the Sino-North Korean Mutual Aid and Cooperation Friendship Treaty of 1961, such a conflict also has the potential to escalate into a much larger regional war with China.

Negotiating a peace treaty or agreement would not only end the Korean War, it would be a crucial step toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula by providing North Korea with the security assurances it says it needs. A peace treaty or agreement that normalizes relations would also improve the humanitarian conditions for millions of North Koreans, who rely on humanitarian aid to survive. And it would be a step toward shifting resources away from endless wars and toward more basic human needs.


Why do women need to be involved in the Korea peace process?

From Liberia to Northern Ireland, women have been instrumental in making peace agreements.

Research shows that the participation of civil society groups, including women’s organizations, makes a peace agreement 64 percent less likely to fail. And when women participate in peace processes, the resulting agreements are 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years.

Including women’s equal participation and full involvement in peace agreements is also a commitment of both UN Security Council Resolution 1325 and the U.S.’s Women, Peace and Security Act of 2017, which recognize the crucial role that women play in conflict prevention, management, and resolution.

But it’s not because of gender that many women are powerful peacemakers; it’s because they are advocates of feminist peace. Feminist peacebuilders believe that dialogue and cooperation, not weapons and sanctions, are the most effective routes toward creating genuine, long-lasting peace and security for all people.


Is North Korea serious about denuclearization?

Although we can’t second-guess North Korea’s intentions, here’s what we know:

  • In his 2019 New Year address, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said his country will “neither make and test nuclear weapons any longer nor use and proliferate them.”
  • North Korea has said in past statements that it will allow outside inspectors to verify the dismantlement of its nuclear and missile test sites, and dismantle its main nuclear production facility in Yongbyon, in exchange for corresponding measures.

Taken all together, this means an effective freeze on nuclear weapons production — notable at a time when other nuclear weapons powers are engaged in a nuclear arms race. The only way to remove the North Korean nuclear threat is through a political solution; North Korea will give up its nuclear weapons only when it no longer feels the threat of attack from the United States. The best way to remove the threat on both sides is to move toward normalizing relations.


Can we trust North Korea as a negotiating partner?

From 1994 — when the Clinton administration and North Korea negotiated the Agreed Framework — until 2002 — when then-President George W. Bush reneged on U.S. commitments and declared North Korea part of the “axis of evil,” North Korea’s nuclear program remained frozen. 

As long as the United States and North Korea were engaged in dialogue, North Korea honored its end of the bargain. In fact, it was during the Obama administration when the U.S. shut down dialogue that North Korea sped up its nuclear weapons program.

The only way to know if we can trust North Korea as a negotiating partner is by negotiating and holding them to their word.


How can we make peace with a regime that violates human rights?

The United States has diplomatic relations with many countries that are known violators of human rights, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Burma. The only source of information we have on North Korea’s human rights situation is the testimonies of defectors, who are often unreliable. The best way to assess the human rights situation is to send fact-finding missions to investigate. But to do so, we need to first end the state of war and normalize relations.

UN human rights special rapporteur Tomás Ojea Quintana said sanctions are having a dire impact on the economic and social conditions of the North Korean people. If Americans are concerned about the human rights of the North Korean people, the U.S. should end the policy of sanctions and clear the way for inter-Korean economic cooperation. 


Won’t lifting sanctions mean giving up our only leverage for denuclearizing North Korea?

Decades of sanctions and isolation have not had the intended effect on North Korea. To the contrary, pressure and isolation through sanctions have only strengthened North Korea’s resolve to become a nuclear power. What these policies have done is impact the most vulnerable populations in North Korea. North Korea says it will give up its nuclear weapons only when it feels the United Sates no longer poses an existential threat to its country. The only way to remove the threat on both sides is to end the unresolved status of the Korean War and move to normalize relations.

Economic engagement and integration of North Korea into the global economic community is a more effective way of bringing about change in North Korean society.


What will happen to U.S. troops in South Korea and the U.S.-R.O.K. alliance after a peace treaty or agreement is signed?

The legal basis of the U.S.-ROK alliance is the Mutual Defense Treaty of 1953. A peace agreement between the U.S. and North Korea has no legal bearing on the Mutual Defense Treaty, which can only be terminated if either side chooses to do so. Ultimately, the question of whether or not U.S. troops should remain in South Korea should be determined by the South Korean people.