nullJPANet: Call for Diplomacy with Korea

South Korea has blamed North Korea for the sinking of the Cheonan navy ship on March 26 of this year, an incident that included 46 South Korean fatalities. The incident moved already tense relations between the two neighbors into a state of advanced hostility that puts the U.S. in the middle as either an agitator or potential mediator. The U.S. should take the diplomatic opportunity to find a way back to six-party talks and move the two Koreas ahead along the path toward reunification. As Secretary of State Clinton travels to the region this week to mark the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, she should look forward by signaling an eventual comprehensive peace treaty to replace the 1953 armistice with North Korea as a step along the path toward reunification.

Tell Secretary of State Clinton that you support U.S. efforts to move beyond blame to restart six-party talks, and to signal support for the goals of full peace and reconciliation on the Korean peninsula.

Although an international investigation said North Korea was responsible for the Cheonan sinking, others have questioned the evidence. North Korea has denied any involvement and has threatened to retaliate if the UN condemned it. While the U.S. blames North Korea, in order to gain Russian and Chinese acceptance it supported a Security Council resolution that strongly condemned the sinking but stopped short of naming North Korea as the culprit. This move is regarded as a face-saving step that allows all sides to regard it as a victory and move forward. While South Korean President Lee Myung-bak  has sharply criticized North Korea in order to bolster lagging political support, South Korea has so far agreed to U.S. requests to restrain from military counter-actions, and instead has merely tightened trade and border defenses against North Korea.

Even though the U.S. wants to show support for South Korea and take the sinking of the Cheonan seriously, U.S. diplomacy should remain measured and directed toward peace rather than risk heightening confrontation during this sensitive time. Secretary Clinton’s visit to Seoul this week is intended to make a strong statement of U.S. solidarity and military commitment to South Korea ahead of joint exercises planned for later this summer. Timed along with Secretary Clinton’s visit to Seoul on July 21, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington, accompanied by three U.S. destroyers, will move from Japan to South Korean ports.

Both Korean and international church partners have called for a lasting peace based on political agreements that include a comprehensive international peace treaty to close the book on the Korean War. This would lead the way to demilitarization and reunification of the Korean peninsula. Rather than intimidation and further provocation, the U.S. should send a message to South and North Korea that the U.S. would support both sides in returning to peace talks, and should work for a lasting peace based on significant demilitarization of the region and eventual reunification of the peninsula.

In the wake of the Cheonan incident the situation on the Korean Peninsula is fragile.  Tell Secretary of State Clinton that her visit and accompanying US diplomacy should lead to renewed six-party talks with a promise for an eventual end to the military stand-off created at the end of the Korean War. Tell Secretary of State Clinton you support a vision of comprehensive demilitarization of the region and eventual Korean reunification.

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