Inter-Korean committee could boost peace
A year has passed since the two Koreas signed the Sept. 19 Comprehensive Military Agreement (CMA) as part of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration last year, a result of the third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un.
The military pact has witnessed some notable achievements such as the disarmament of the Joint Security Area (JSA) and the demolition of guard posts (GPs) in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) last year. Other promises made through the pact, however, have seen little progress as an impasse in denuclearization talks with North Korea has continued after the breakdown of Kim’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump in Hanoi.
The most urgent task for the government to revive the CMA is to create a system in which the Koreas could continue to discuss the implementation of the pact together, military officials and experts said. More specifically, establishing an inter-Korean joint military committee as agreed at the CMA should soon be implemented.
“The CMA has left much to be desired especially in that the inter-Korean joint military committee has yet to be formed to offer the two Koreas a space to continue to implement (other promises) from preventing military clashes to gradual disarmament,” said Hong Min, director of the North Korean Research Division at the Korea Institute for National Unification (KINU). Hong said the failure in Hanoi has triggered North Korea’s mistreatment of inter-Korean relations, as the North wanted to create some level of tension on the Korean Peninsula to gain leverage in the upcoming denuclearization negotiations with the U.S.
“Pyongyang needs to appeal to Washington that the security situation on the peninsula is a military threat to the U.S. To do so, Pyongyang has to take issue with all of the military activities in South Korea from the presence of U.S. Forces Korea to the South Korea-U.S. joint military drills, Seoul’s introduction of weapons, the defense ministry’s mid-term policy plans and others,” Hong said.
Starting May, North Korea has conducted 10 missile and rocket launches. Although the CMA did not say such missile tests should be banned, Seoul’s defense ministry said they go against the spirit of the pact and the peace efforts.
To bridge such gaps, the two Koreas need to set up a verification system in which they can monitor each other and create some punitive measures to counter violations through regular discussions, according to experts. “A specific system where the two Koreas can monitor, inspect and punish each other for violations of the CMA should be created,” said Choi Yoon-cheol, professor at Sangmyung University’s Department of National Defense. “Without such a system, the current CMA would remain meaningless.”
Choi said implementing the CMA would also be important for the denuclearization of North Korea, as the CMA was made to implement the April 27 Panmunjeom Declaration made last year which focused on denuclearization.
The possibility of resuming inter-Korean military talks remains depending on the results of the upcoming denuclearization dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea. They said Seoul should maintain readiness for inter-Korean projects such as the joint war remains excavation project in the DMZ for when the North replies.
“We hope the military authorities of the two Koreas will soon establish the inter-Korean joint military committee to build military trust and ease tensions between the two Koreas,” an official at the Ministry of National Defense’s North Korea Policy Bureau told reporters Wednesday, a day before the one-year anniversary of the CMA.
South Korea’s then-Defense Minister Song Young-moo, left and North Korean Minister of the People’s Armed Forces No Kwang-chol show reporters the Comprehensive Military Agreement signed by the two with presence of President Moon Jae-in and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un in this Sept. 19, 2018, file photo. Joint Press Corps