Why does Japan refuse to end the Korean War?

The Japanese authorities are not enthusiastic about the idea voiced by South Korean President Moon Jae-in to declare the formal end of the Korean War and are concerned about this Seoul initiative. The move was to entice North Korea into denuclearisation. 

As per Koyodo News, Tokyo fears that such a step will weaken the position of the Japanese side in resolving the problem of citizens abducted by the DPRK intelligence service and simplify the further development of Pyongyang’s nuclear missile program. According to the agency’s diplomatic sources, Japan has already voiced its concerns to the United States, but the American side has not yet clearly indicated its position on this issue.

The US and DPRK remain technically in a state of war, as the 1950-1953 Korean War, in which the US-led U.N. troops fought alongside the South against the North which was backed by China and the Soviet Union, ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty.

South Korean Proposal

The South Korean President Moon Jae In’s speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September included a statement wherein he said that he will seek to declare a formal end to the Korean War. He named China as a potential partner in addition to the two Koreas and the United States. There was no mention of Japan.

On September 21, during the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, the President of the Republic of Korea called for the early signing of a declaration on the end of the Korean War (1950-1953), which ended in 1953 with an armistice. Formally, the parties are still in a state of armed conflict.

Positions of the warring states

During a meet on Oct. 19, Noh Kyu Duk, the South Korean special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs, said that there was a need to proceed with the proposal by Moon.

Takehiro Funakoshi, head of the Japanese Foreign Ministry’s Asian and Oceanian Affairs Bureau, responded by saying it was “premature” to discuss the proposal. He pointed out that North Korea has repeatedly test-fired missiles.

The US special representative for North Korea, Sung Kim, did not argue the pros and cons of the proposal.

Post the meet, a Japanese government source said the three countries agreed to pursue diplomatic solutions with North Korea and work toward beefing up regional deterrence.

North Korea says it will reject any South Korean proposal to declare a formal end to the war unless the United States withdraws its “hostile policy” toward the North, as per its state-run media.

The Korean War

The Korean War is an armed conflict of 1950-1953 between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea), one of the largest local wars of the 20th century.

The war was fought with the participation of the military contingent of China and military specialists and units of the USSR Air Force on the side of the DPRK, and South Korea was backed by the armed forces of the United States and a number of states as part of the UN multinational forces.

The preconditions for the Korean War were laid in the summer of 1945, when Soviet and American troops appeared on the territory of Korea, at that time it was completely occupied by Japan. In August 1945, the allies reached an agreement on the establishment of a dividing line on the 38th parallel on the Korean Peninsula, north of which the surrender of Japanese troops was accepted by the USSR, to the south by the United States.

After the formation of two Korean states in 1948 and the withdrawal of first Soviet and then American troops from the peninsula, both Korean sides and their main allies, the USSR and the United States, were preparing for a conflict. The governments of the North and South intended to unite Korea under their own rule, which was proclaimed in the Constitutions adopted in 1948.

In 1948, the United States and the Republic of Korea signed an agreement to create the South Korean army. In 1950, a defense agreement was concluded between these countries.

North Korea created the Korean People’s Army with the help of the Soviet Union. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Army from the DPRK in September 1948, all weapons and military equipment were left in DPRK. The Americans withdrew their troops from South Korea only in the summer of 1949, but left about 500 advisers there; military advisers of the USSR remained in the DPRK as well.

The mutual non-recognition of the two Korean states, their incomplete recognition on the world stage, made the situation on the Korean Peninsula extremely unstable.

Armed clashes along the 38th parallel occurred with varying degrees of intensity until June 25, 1950. They happened especially often in 1949 – the first half of 1950, numbering in the hundreds. Sometimes more than a thousand people from each side took part in these skirmishes.

In 1949, the head of the DPRK Kim Il Sung appealed to the USSR with a request for help in the invasion of South Korea. However, considering the North Korean army was insufficiently trained and fearing a conflict with the United States, Moscow did not grant this request.

The conflict began on June 25, 1950, with an offensive by North Korean troops to the south. Some historians claim that the offensive was sanctioned by Moscow, others that it was Kim Il Sung’s initiative. According to Pyongyang, an attack by South Korean troops was carried out with a deepening of the territory of the DPRK up to 2-3 kilometres.

For the United States, the DPRK attack came as a complete surprise – just a few days earlier, Secretary of State Dean Acheson said in a report to Congress that war was unlikely.

On June 25, the US government put the Korean issue for discussion in the UN Security Council, which on June 27 adopted a resolution on the need for urgent military assistance to South Korea from the UN member states. This resolution was adopted in the absence of the representative of the USSR. The Soviet representative, at Stalin’s instructions, boycotted the Security Council meetings in protest against the fact that the Kuomintang representative occupied China’s place in the UN.

On the same day, US President Harry Truman ordered the entry of the American Air Force and Navy, stationed in the Far East, into hostilities against the DPRK, and later sanctioned the actions of the ground forces.

On July 7, the UN Security Council voted in favour of the decision to ask all UN member states to provide their armed forces in accordance with previously adopted resolutions at the disposal of the United Nations Joint Command of the United Nations Multinational Force (UN MNF). As a result, 16 states sent their military formations and five more – medical units.

Initially, hostilities developed successfully for North Korea. As a result of the Seoul, Suwon, Daejeon, Naktogan and Busan operations, the DPRK seized most of the territory of South Korea. The American-South Korean group of forces was pinned to the sea.

In this critical situation, on September 16, 1950, the troops of the 8th American Army, concentrated at the Busan bridgehead, together with the South Korean troops, launched a counteroffensive. At the same time, the 10th US Corps landed in the rear of the North Korean forces in Incheon. Possessing supremacy at sea and in the air and numerical superiority on land, the allies quickly occupied the previously lost territory and crossed the 38th parallel. As a result, the North Korean troops suffered a major defeat, left Seoul and Pyongyang, and in a number of areas were driven back to the Korean-Chinese border.

The threat of the seizure of the entire peninsula by the South Koreans and the Americans forced the USSR and China to come to the aid of their ally. At the end of October 1950, Chinese troops under the command of Marshal Peng Dehui entered Korea. In order to avoid international conflict, they were called “Chinese People’s Volunteers.” In November 1950, the MiG-15 fighters of the Soviet 64th Fighter Air Corps first entered the battle over North Korean territory. The MiGs were painted in the identification marks of the DPRK.

By January 1951, the Chinese and North Korean forces had reoccupied Seoul. In the next several months, the opponents tried to push each other away, but neither side achieved decisive success. In July 1951, the front stabilized at approximately the 38th parallel, i.e. approximately where hostilities began on June 25, 1950. The war acquired a positional character.

The Ceasefire

In July 1951, the two warring sides began peace negotiations.

Both negotiations and hostilities continued. A large-scale air war broke out between the US Air Force representing the South and the Soviet 64th Fighter Air Corps backing the North.

By the spring of 1953, it became obvious that the price of victory for either side would be too high, and after Stalin’s death, the Soviet party leadership decided to end the war. China and the DPRK did not dare to continue the war on their own.

On July 27, 1953, a ceasefire agreement was concluded in Panmunjom.

The number of casualties during the war has not yet been calculated and there are various versions of their estimates. According to one of the available versions, the losses of the DPRK and South Korea amounted to about one million people for each side, including civilian casualties. The losses of the United States personnel killed and wounded are estimated at about 140 thousand, while the losses of the allies are estimated at 15 thousand people. According to the available official Chinese data, the number of casualties for Chinese people’s volunteers is estimated at 390 thousand. The Soviet Union lost 315 personnel.

The total losses of the air forces of the sides amounted to more than three thousand aircraft of the UN forces and about 900 aircraft of the air forces of the PRC, DPRK and the USSR.

After President Moon Jae-in came to power in South Korea, relations between the North and the South began to thaw. In 2018, two summits of the leaders of the republics have already taken place at the Panmunjom negotiation point in the demilitarized zone – in April and May.

All attempts by the DPRK to get the United States to sign a peace treaty in Washington have so far been rejected. However, at the first-ever US-North Korean summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that he was ready to discuss a peace treaty with the DPRK.

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