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(Yonhap Interview) Poland promises to continue armistice monitoring mission

All Headlines 15:31 July 27, 2013

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, July 27 (Yonhap) -- On the day of the 60th anniversary of the ceasefire of the Korean War, Poland pledged to continue fulfilling its mission as a member of an international armistice monitoring group to maintain peace and stability on the peninsula.

Poland's deputy defense minister Robert Kupiecki led a delegation to Seoul to attend a national ceremony on Saturday to honor the service and sacrifices of veterans of U.N. forces and commemorate the world's longest truce which remains in place to this day.

When the three-year conflict ended on July 27, 1953, Poland and Czechoslovakia were nominated by North Korea and China to monitor the implementation of the truce agreement as part of the four-nation Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC) armed with this mission.

U.N. Command, on behalf of South Korea and U.S.-led Allied Forces, selected Switzerland and Sweden to conduct the task on the southern side of the Demilitarized Zone separating the two Koreas.

Over three decades later, North Korea kicked Poland out of the NNSC, apparently believing that it was no longer friendly to the communist country. Czechoslovakia was also expelled when it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.

Although Poland no longer has its delegation in the communist nation, Kupiecki said his country remains committed to fulfilling its mission to oversee the armistice. Now, Poland sends representatives to a couple of commission meetings through South Korea each year.

"Our mandate in the Commission remains valid. It is not in the interest of peace and stability to challenge it," Kupiecki said in an email interview with Yonhap News Agency. "The North Korean decision of 1995 deteriorated conditions for performing our duties stemming from the Armistice Agreement."

As Poland still maintains diplomatic relations with Pyongyang despite the communist nation's decision to kick out Warsaw's delegation, the official said his country is suited for a mediator role between rival Koreas.

"Poland continues its mission in the spirit of impartiality and goodwill," he said. "Our intention is to sustain the relations with both Korean states. It is also important for our credibility in exercising responsibilities of an NNSC Member."

As the NNSC is an important international legal obligation to the international community, Kupiecki said his country will continue its mission until a peace treaty replaces the armistice, or the U.N. decides otherwise.

Kupiecki said he wants the two Koreas to resume processes to curb tension on the peninsula and resolve the six-decade stalemate for "the stability in the entire Asian region."

"We all hope that the political situation would allow the two nations to return to dialogue," Kupiecki said. "It has always been the key stabilizing factor. In the broader security context, it also concerns the international effort to re-start the six-party talks on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."

The six-party talks, designed to persuade the North to discard its nuclear programs, ground to a halt in December 2008 after Pyongyang walked out of the dialogue in protest against the U.N. condemnation of its banned rocket launch.

For that reconciliation effort, the vice minister supported South Korean President Park Geun-hye's North Korean policy, the so-called "trustpolitik" aimed at building trust with the communist nation.

"The new initiative aiming at the normalization of the relations with North Korea has been warmly welcomed by the international community. One should hope, this generous gesture will be reciprocated by Pyongyang," he said.

Kupiecki hopes the two Koreas agree to replace the Armistice Agreement with a peace treaty and ultimately become a single country.

"Since the end of the Korean War, the peace treaty is the goal to be achieved through the peace process. It would definitely be a milestone in the two Korean states' relations, advancing the prospect of the national reunification," he said.

The deputy minister pledged to join international efforts to provide assistance and support in the process of reconciliation, warning against North Korea's recent provocations and war-like rhetoric.

"We consider any provocations as unacceptable and detrimental to the international stability and security," he said.

Kupiecki praised South Korea's remarkable economic growth and democracy achievements, saying its success serves as an "inspiration" for many nations building their own prosperity.

Poland, which also carried out profound political and economic reforms, proved to be a success, so there is a lot to share between the two nations to strengthen bilateral cooperation, he said.

For that regard, Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak will make an official visit to Seoul in the coming months to discuss ways to boost political and economic ties, he said.

During a meeting between the defense ministers of the two nations, they are expected to sign a bilateral agreement.


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