Reviving the Korean Armistice: Building Future Peace on Historical Precedents

 

Despite the critical function of the armistice, very little political attention has been paid to the agreement, with few bureaucrats, policymakers, and Korea experts sufficiently knowledgeable about its details. Surprisingly, the political leaderships and their supporting bureaucracies in all the relevant countries with vested interest in a permanent peace arrangement—the United States, the ROK, China, Russia, and Japan—seem to lack any broad or specific comprehension of the armistice. Perhaps even more remarkable is the lack of academic interest or focus on the subject of the armistice as the basis for permanent peace on the peninsula, despite the popularity of analyzing and prophesying future peace arrangements. And all relevant parties seem to have dismissed any potential role of the United Nations—even in the UN itself—despite its essential capacity as institutional overseer of the armistice for the last 60 years.

A uniform understanding within governments, between allies, and even among relevant adversaries is a crucial missing link in any serious discussion about deescalating tensions on the peninsula and preventing future conflict. Moreover, such a thorough examination of existing roles, functions, and future expectations and limitations may reveal heretofore unconsidered avenues toward a permanent workable solution. Thus a thorough reexamination of the armistice arrangement is critical not just to address near-term conflicts but to establish a future road map for an enduring peace in the long term. If the United States is truly invested in promoting and ensuring stability and economic prosperity in East Asia over the long term, then it must work now toward devising a practical and permanent solution to the stalemate that exists on the Korean Peninsula.

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