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Seoul, Washington 'on same page' on ending Korean War, security adviser claims

Suh Hoon, Director of South Korea's National Security Office, meets reporters on Thursday after his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington. (Yonhap)
Suh Hoon, Director of South Korea's National Security Office, meets reporters on Thursday after his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington. (Yonhap)

Seoul and Washington are on the same page over the need to declare an end to the Korean War after denuclearizing Pyongyang, Seoul’s top security adviser said, seeking to end speculation that the two sides are in dissent over the matter. 

Suh Hoon, director of South Korea’s National Security Office, stressed that the formally ending the Korean War cannot be separated from the denuclearization process of North Korea, adding it was “common sense” that the two matters go hand in hand.

“The issue of declaring an end to the Korean War is not a new issue. It has always appeared on the negotiating table, and there can be no different views regarding the issue between Korea and the US, Suh told reporters after his meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Thursday. 

He added that the remaining issue was the timing of the war’s declaration, whether it will come before or after in the denuclearization process, or how it will be linked to denuclearization, dismissing claims that Seoul is pursuing an end-of-war declaration without denuclearizing the North. 

Suh said that there were no in-depth discussions on the matter during his trip. 

However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has suggested the declaration precede denuclearization.

Moon has called for declaring the end to the 1950-53 Korean War multiple times since he assumed office in 2017, with the latest at the United Nations last month and at the Korea Society last week. Moon asked for the international community’s support for an official end to the war, stressing it may pave the way for denuclearization. 

The two Koreas are still technically at war as the Korean War ended with an armistice and not a peace treaty. 

Moon’s latest call appears to be aimed at reviving waning momentum in denuclearization diplomacy with North Korea, which has been at a standstill since US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s “no-deal” summit in Hanoi last February. 

Suh’s visit to Washington comes with the US presidential election just over three weeks away, spawning speculation that Seoul is looking for a breakthrough in the stalled denuclearization process before Nov. 3. 

He rejected the claim, saying his visit was not related to the presidential election and that Seoul-Washington relations continue regardless of administrations. Suh also met with his US counterpart Robert O’Brien on Wednesday. 

When asked whether Seoul would seek to pursue inter-Korean exchanges independently of the US, Suh stressed every inter-Korean issue concerned the US and neighboring countries. 

“Inter-Korean relations cannot be said to simply be a relationship between only the South and the North. Every issue needs to be discussed, coordinated and conducted together with the US and neighboring countries,” he said. 

Suh added he did not have any serious talks on the issue of sharing the costs of the upkeep of the 28,500 American troops stationed here. But he said Seoul will continue to discuss the matter at a “reasonable” and “mutually acceptable level” at an early date. 

Despite seven rounds of talks since last September toward renewal of the cost-sharing pact, known as the Special Measures Agreement, the two sides failed to clinch a deal, largely due to differences over the amount that Seoul should shoulder.

Seoul has offered to increase its share by 13 percent from last year’s SMA, when it agreed to pay around 1.04 trillion won ($874 million), but the US is said to be demanding a 50 percent hike.

By Ahn Sung0mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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