South Korea would consider negotiating an end to the decades-old Korean War if North Korea commits to denuclearization, a Seoul official said Wednesday.
South Korea’s national security adviser Chung Eui-yong told reporters the neighboring countries — still technically at war, as the 1950-1953 conflict ended in an armistice agreement — have made progress in solving “the North Korean nuclear issue” and that the efforts may “achieve the goal of a peace settlement on the Korean peninsula.”
Chung’s remarks came as preparations continued for an inter-Korean summit meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for April 27. The meeting is only the third time that the leaders of the two Koreas will meet. It will be held in the village of Panmunjom, which is located in the demilitarized zone that has divided the peninsula since 1953.
Chung said that Seoul and Washington have held in-depth discussions about how to establish a “peace system” on the Korean peninsula, including the possibility of future three-way talks between the United States and the two Koreas.
“(We discussed) how we can guarantee the bright future of North Korea if North Korea makes the right choice,” Chung said.
Chung did not specify whether this process would include the signing of a formal peace treaty. But South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, citing an unnamed official from the president’s office, reported that South Korea and the U.S. are reviewing that possibility.
One potential complication to a peace treaty is that South Korea was not party to the original armistice agreement, which was signed by the U.S., North Korea and China. That is because at the time, South Korean forces were under wartime operational control of the U.S. — a status that remains in effect today.
In recent months, North Korea has signaled willingness to discuss denuclearization. During a meeting with Chung in Pyongyang on March 5, Kim said that North Korea was ready to give up its nuclear weapons if military threats against the country were resolved and it received a security guarantee.
On Tuesday, President Trump said that the two Koreas “have his blessing” to discuss officially ending the war. He made the remarks during a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Trump said that his administration has been engaging with North Korea ahead of his own potential meeting with Kim. Trump previously agreed to meet with the North Korean dictator, with a summit currently planned to take place in May or early June.
“We have also started talking to North Korea directly, at extremely high levels,” Trump said. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that CIA Director Mike Pompeo secretly traveled to North Korea over Easter weekend to meet with Kim.