On Friday, after becoming the first North Korean leader to step into South Korea, Kim Jong Un joined with South Korean President Moon Jae In in making an extraordinary announcement: The two leaders vowed to pursue the shared objective of a “nuclear-free Korean peninsula” and, by the end of this year, to finally proclaim an end to the Korean War.
The declaration established ambitious, if notably vague, parameters for Kim’s upcoming nuclear talks with Donald Trump, who had previously given his “blessing” to North and South Korea to discuss an official conclusion to the war, which was stopped but not formally ended by an armistice in 1953. But it also highlighted just how fast diplomatic efforts to address North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program are moving and just how much work those involved are setting out to accomplish in the coming months: no less than a peace treaty that has eluded North and South Korea for 65 years, and a definitive nuclear deal with North Korea that has escaped international negotiators for 25 years.
In the abstract, a peace deal to replace the armistice that halted the Korean War makes eminent sense. Why not draw to a close a conflict that has unnaturally divided Korea and perpetuated one of the most militarized and volatile stalemates on earth? When leaders of North Korean, Chinese, and U.S.-led United Nations forces signed the 1953 truce (South Korea abided by the armistice but refused to sign it), they agreed to hold another conference in three months to ensure “the peaceful settlement of the Korean question.” A resolution is a long time coming.