On the 67th anniversary of the signing of the Korean War armistice, we urge the international community to support inter-Korean reconciliation and an end to the war and maximum pressure.
That the Korean War remains unresolved is the root cause of continued hostile tensions on the Korean Peninsula. It is time to end the war and take actions to decrease hostile relations on the Korean Peninsula, such as easing sanctions and providing resources to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea) for sustainable development and human needs.
The risks of renewed conflict are real and have serious human security implications, not just for the Korean Peninsula but for the broader Northeast Asia region and the world. If war broke out on the Korean Peninsula today, an estimated 300,000 people would die in the first few days of conventional fighting, and tens of millions would be impacted if nuclear weapons were used.
We support the inter-Korean agreements signed in 2018, including the North-South Korean military agreement for mutual confidence-building and disarmament. Unfortunately, no progress was made in the two years since the historic US-DPRK summit in Singapore, and tensions between the two Koreas rose again last month.
We urge the governments of the two Koreas to keep their efforts for peace and reunification on track in the spirit of inter-Korean agreements. We strongly urge the international community, especially the United States, to support inter-Korean reconciliation and remove barriers to progress.
To finally take war off the table and begin a new generation of peace on the Korean Peninsula, we call for four immediate actions:
- Formally end the Korean War with a peace agreement. In the Panmunjom Declaration, both Koreas called for talks with the United States to replace the armistice with a peace agreement. We recognize that peace is necessary for denuclearization, and that mutual confidence-building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
- Abandon the maximum pressure campaign. The international community must support inter-Korean reconciliation and end its support of maximum pressure. Key parts of the Panmunjom Declaration agreement were left unimplemented largely because of US pressure on the Republic of Korea (ROK, South Korea) not to advance inter-Korean reconciliation until there was progress in denuclearization. Despite explicit intentions by both Koreas to end the Korean War, the US-led maximum pressure campaign is impeding inter-Korean progress through actions that are leading to the breakdown in peace talks, including repeated renewal of sanctions, provocative military drills that simulate invasions, and requiring that maximalist demands be met by North Korea. Concretely, the US and the rest of the international community must actively foster conditions conducive to the implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration.
- Lift sanctions in order to let people on the Korean Peninsula respond to the COVID pandemic. The United States and UN Security Council must lift sanctions that confound initiatives intended to help reunite families and improve humanitarian conditions in the DPRK. Tomás Ojea Quintana, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, has recently called on the UN Security Council to seriously reconsider “any sanctions … that impact on the livelihood of people and hinder the Government’s capacity to respond to COVID-19.” Additionally, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has called for easing sanctions to enable medical systems to fight COVID-19 and limit global contagion, and Renato Zerbini Ribeiro Leão, Chair of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said, “States should seriously consider lifting economic sanctions to avoid weakening health care systems and obstructing much needed medical equipment and supplies.” We urge the international community to support inter-Korean public health cooperation and the development of a joint response to the COVID-19 outbreak on the peninsula.
- Support women’s participation in the Korea peace process. Research shows that women’s participation in peace processes results in more durable and stable peace agreements, yet very few women are involved in the official Korea peace process. We call on the international community to support the inclusion of women’s organizations in peace negotiations in order to ensure long-term solutions that protect all people through disarmament and demilitarization, investments in economic and social rights, and sustainable development.
North Korea and South Korea must be allowed to pursue peace, reconciliation and cooperation on their own terms with the support of, not obstruction from, the international community, especially the United States. And for the Korea peace process to be successful, women must have a seat at the table. We must step back from the brink of renewed hostilities and work to end the Korean War now.