[South Korean President Moon Jae-in shakes hands with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un during their meeting of April 27, 2018. Photo: Korea Summit Press | Reuters].
In their historical meeting in June 2018, USA President Trump and North Korea Leader Kim Jong-un announced an agreement under which each country commits to:
- ‘…establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity’;
- ‘…join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula’; and
- ‘…recovering POW/MIA remains including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.’
In addition, Kim Jong-un committed to ‘work towards complete de-nuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.’ Following the signing of the joint agreement, President Trump announced that a first step by the USA in implementing the agreement would be to cease the US-led war games exercises off the coast of the DPRK.
The US/DPRK agreement came on the back of a peace process between North and South Korea initiated by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. Abolition 2000 members had been pushing for such a diplomatic process, especially in 2017 when tensions between USA and DPRK were at their highest for decades. See Abolition 2000 actions and responses on USA/Korea peace agreement.
Since June, South Korea and North Korea have taken a number of steps forward. See for example, The two Koreas open liaison office as international conference connects peace, nuclear disarmament and sustainable development. However, the US/DPRK process appears to have stalled. If no progress is made between DPRK and the USA, we could see a return to the tensions and nuclear risks of 2017 – or worse.
As such, civil society and parliamentary efforts to keep the peace process moving are vital. Recent efforts include:
- On Sep 27, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) organised a roundtable discussion in New York co-hosted by the South Korean Mission to the UN on Peace, disarmament and development cooperation, which brought UN officials and civil society leaders together to support the Korean peace process and to discuss the connections between diplomacy, disarmament and development on the Korean peninsula.
- On Nov 7, Senator Ed Markey, who serves as PNND Co-President and as the Ranking Member of the US Senate Subcommittee on East Asia, sent a letter to President Trump urging the easing of humanitarian aid restrictions to North Korea. In criticizing the travel ban, Senator Markey cited data that estimates 60,000 children are at risk of starvation in North Korea (See Senator Urges Trump to Ease Ban on Aid Workers Traveling to North Korea, NY Times, Nov 8, 2018);
- On Nov 11, a joint statement on Peace on the Korean Peninsula, the Atlanta Statement, was released by participants at a conference in Atlanta, Georgia organised by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, Korean Methodist Church and World Methodist Council. The conference was hosted by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter who opened the event with a strong message of support for peace efforts in Korea;
- On Nov 14, a network of US organizations released a Joint Statement of U.S. Civil Society Groups in Support of the Current Peace Process in Korea.
Both the Atlanta statement and the Joint statement of U.S. civil society groups call for a formal declaration ending the Korean War, negotiations on a Peace Treaty, and interim steps including a lifting of international sanctions against North Korea in order to encourage further steps for denuclearization.
In the USA, the Korea Peace Network helps to build cooperation and coordination amongst civil society organisations working to support the Korea Peace Process.