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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 18)

All News 07:33 January 18, 2016

About peace treaty
Staged NK nuclear disarmament may be precondition

North Korea last Friday pressed the United States to begin negotiations for a bilateral peace treaty. The assertion, made by its opaque quasi-governmental organization of lawyers, was expected after the Jan. 6 nuclear test. The North has often surprised the world with its bizarre behavior, apparently done so in hopes of opening direct talks with the U.S. for a non-aggression agreement, which it would then use as an excuse to demand the departure of U.S. troops from the South. Pyongyang's strategy is that once Americans leave, the North will conquer the South by force or other means.

The proposal can be ignored as usual. Or it can be taken up to catalyze a fresh start to the stalled international efforts to denuclearize the North. The need for such efforts could not be greater because the six-party talks, started in 2003, have been all but at a standstill. As shown after the North's latest nuclear test, China has stood in the way of a move in the U.N. for stronger sanctions imposed by the usual team of South Korea, the U.S. and Japan. In other words, no solution is in sight or conceivable for the future.

The North often plays a strong hand, being secure in the knowledge that China, its only benefactor and one of five U.N. Security Council Permanent Members, cannot but side with it.

Starting negotiations for a peace treaty may lessen Beijing's reliance on the North as a buffer against the U.S. troops stationed in the South and remove suspicions that Washington is trying to suppress its influence. Thereby, China would feel freer to join the international community and discipline the North for its wanton behavior.

More to the point, the North would be short of one more excuse for developing and strengthening its nuclear arsenal. Of course, the North's grounds for its need of weapons of mass destruction are based on its leadership's collective paranoia and schizophrenia.

In its Friday proposal, the North criticized the U.S. for making the dismantling of its nuclear programs a "prerequisite" for peace treaty talks and demanded that such talks start immediately.

Both sides could make confidence-building steps before the start of the talks. For starters, the "prerequisite" could be dropped in return for complete outside monitoring of the North's nuclear facilities. Declaration of a nuclear moratorium by the North would not be enough, considering its dubious track record.

Any peace talks should be made foolproof first by involving the parties concerned and giving them roles to ensure that any peace deal is kept. Internationally, peace pacts are often not kept. In the case of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the governments of South and North Vietnam, the United States and Vietcong, signed the treaty, and it lasted only two years because of U.S. withdrawal.

The U.S. led a 16-nation coalition to defend the South against an invasion by the North, backed by China, at the start of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Last but most important, what role will the South play? The North claims that the South was not a signatory to the truce signed by U.S. Lt. Gen. William Harrison representing the U.N. Command and Nam Il, delegate of North Korean and Chinese forces. The South did not sign it in hopes of unification.

Still, the South should be a main player in any peace talks and a signatory in a resultant treaty, considering its territory and sovereignty are at stake. Besides, the North is beholden to prove that its pursuit of the peace treaty is not part of its old forceful unification tactic.

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