President Moon Jae-in will join North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump in Singapore next week to declare an end to the Korean War, which has technically been running for 68 years, according to a diplomatic source.
“Preparations are already underway for President Moon to declare a formal end to the Korean War with the two leaders on June 12, the date of the North-U.S. summit, or the next day on the 13th,” said the source, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Singapore has already begun preparations to host President Moon [for a trilateral meeting].”
If realized, the three leaders standing together to declare the Korean War’s end will certainly be a charged symbolic moment, but it will not have legal force.
The Korean War broke out when the Soviet-backed North Korean army invaded an ill-prepared South Korea on the night of June 25, 1950. Three years of fighting devastated the peninsula and failed to end the division set in place by the Soviets and Western nations at the end of World War II.
The war ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, on July 27, 1953, leaving the Koreas technical at war and making the inter-Korean border one of the most heavily-fortified zones in the world.
Expectations of a declaration to end the Korean War arose after Trump’s remarks early Saturday, when he said signing of a statement to end it would be “very important,” after a meeting with Kim Yong-chol, vice chairman of the North Korean Workers’ Party’s Central Committee, who delivered a letter from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
“We talked about ending the war,” Trump said on the south lawn after Kim Yong-chol left the White House. “And you know, this war has been going on – it’s got to be the longest war – almost 70 years, right? And there is a possibility of something like that.
“Can you believe that we’re talking about the ending of the Korean War?” he continued. “You’re talking about 70 years.”
He said the declaration will be “more of a signing of a document,” and “very important.”
But replacing the armistice with a peace treaty will require the participation of the three signatories of the 1953 armistice: the U.S.-led United Nations Command on behalf of South Korea and the North Korean and Chinese militaries. Therefore, it needs consent from Beijing.
In November 1950, the North stood on the brink of being defeated by the U.S.-led UN Command and Chinese leader Mao Zedong sent hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers across the border to drive the UN forces south. More than 100,000 Chinese were killed in the conflict, including Mao’s son, and the two Communist allies often say their alliance was “forged in blood.”
The Blue House continued to be cautious Sunday when asked about the prospect of Moon joining Trump and Kim Jong-un in Singapore to declare the war’s end. The Moon administration has been deeply wary and careful not to affect delicate negotiations between U.S. and North Korean officials over the June 12 summit.
Moon has been pushing for a trilateral meeting. He said he was “hoping to push for a declaration to end the war through a trilateral meeting should the North-U.S. summit become successful” on May 27 when he announced the outcome of his second summit meeting with North Korean leader Kim.
Last week, the Blue House sent an official to Singapore, fueling speculation that the aide might be preparing for a meeting involving Moon, Kim and Trump. The presidential office denied the rumors, saying the dispatch was a preparation for a summit between the leaders of South Korea and Singapore in July.
Early Saturday, Trump announced that the June 12 summit, which he abruptly called off on May 25, was officially back on track, stressing North Korea was pursuing denuclearization.
“Well, I think they want to do that,” referring to denuclearization. “They want other things along the line. They want to develop as a country. That’s going to happen. I have no doubt,” he added, referring to a package of international aid and lifting of sanctions to help the North develop its economy should it opt for complete denuclearization. On the crucial role the United States bears in the denuclearization process, he said, “Without us, it wouldn’t happen.”
Wrapping up a four-day stay in the United States, Kim Yong-chol left for Beijing early Sunday en route to Pyongyang. During his stay, he had two meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in New York and had an 80-minute meeting with Trump at the Oval House during which he delivered a letter from Kim Jong-un to Trump. Contents of the letter have not been released.
Kim Yong-chol, a four-star general, formerly ran the People’s Army’s Reconnaissance General Bureau, the main intelligence agency, and is the alleged mastermind of the 2010 torpedoing of the South Korean Cheonan warship, which killed 46 sailors. He has been the target of U.S. Treasury sanctions since 2010 and has traveled to the United States on a special waiver from the State Department.