Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk
One demand you don’t hear South Korean leaders making whenever North Korea pops off another missile is, “Oh, let’s sign a peace treaty, and everything will be okay.”
That’s partly because, if there’s one party with whom North Korean strategists don’t want to include in any such treaty, it’s South Korea.
They see the south ― they spell it with a lowercase “s” ― as not just a junior partner but a “lackey” of the U.S. They want to assert their superiority if not sovereignty as the only true Korean government with which the U.S. should be dealing in any “permanent” peace in place of the armistice that’s maintained the peace on the Korean Peninsula since July 1953.
Advocates of a “peace treaty,” however, don’t want to acknowledge the existence of “peace.” They prefer to see Korea as “technically at war,” and they carry on as if they wish war would break out just to prove their point.
Sorry ― South and North Korea are not at war, “technically” or otherwise, despite North Korea leader Kim Jong-Un’s habit of ordering missile shots that annoy everyone and do nothing to advance arguments for a treaty. The North Koreans, of course, would never accept any deal that would force them to abandon their beloved nuclear warheads, much less the missiles to carry them to distant targets.
In fact, discussion of a treaty is all the more irrelevant since President Moon Jae-In has responded to North Korean “provocations” with a toughness that is a severe disappointment to North Korean leaders, as well as pro-Northers in the U.S. who form the core of the peace treaty crowd.
No doubt it’s for that reason that Kim has not responded to Moon’s request for dialogue or pleas for another round of family reunions.
At the forefront of the pro-Northers is an outfit in California called the Korea Policy Institute. So disappointed are they by Moon’s strong-willed defiance of North Korea and his support of sanctions, they seem to be giving up on him.
Instead they are throwing their support behind a “New People’s Party” they say is “determined to continue the candlelight revolution that brought Moon to power and to hold his administration accountable to the democratic will of the people.”
Exactly what “people” are they talking about, and what about Moon’s approval rating of more than 70 percent? Other questions one might ask: What is this “New People’s Party,” what are American pro-Northers doing getting involved in Korean domestic politics, and why do they turn against Moon when they were so overjoyed by his election?
A look at the positions of some shows they also want the U.S. to pull out of bases in Guam and Hawaii. In other words, they see U.S. withdrawal from Korea, and betrayal of the U.S.-Korean alliance, as intrinsic to a U.S. retreat from East Asia.
Like right-wing isolationists of another era, are they advocating “fortress America”? Not likely. What’s clear is they don’t want South Korea as the leading partner in a peace treaty. In fact, their blathering suggests they don’t want South Korea involved at all.
Nor do they ask whether China, North Korea’s savior in the Korean War, might also want to be a signatory to a treaty. They prefer to forget that China did sign the Korean War armistice, which South Korea’s president, Rhee Syngman, spurned as sanctifying the permanent division of the Korean Peninsula.
Treaty talk, however, is not a serious topic in Seoul. Moon isn’t mentioning it; nor do members of his Democratic Party of Korea. American pro-Northers would rather not acknowledge North Korea’s abuses while applauding its nuclear “defense.”
None of which is to suggest that South and North Korea should not get into dialogue. Why not revive six-party talks that China was hosting from 2005 to 2008? Surely all the parties would have a lot to say. Moon would consider reopening the Kaeseong Industrial Complex if the North gave up its nukes, and wouldn’t it be great if tours resumed to Mount Geumgang?
North Korea, amid missile tests, is responding to none of these suggestions while pro-North idiots rave about a “peace treaty” in place of a truce that has actually kept the peace, real peace, not “technical” peace, for nearly three-fourths of a century.
Donald Kirk has been covering war and peace in the region for decades. He’s at email@example.com.