People's Review Weekly

Lessons learned from the Korean War: reflection­s after 70 years

- BY YANG DANzHI Global Times

Thursday marks the 70th anniversar­y of the signing of the armistice agreement that put the Korean War (1950-53) on hold. The war, which erupted in the early aftermath of World War II, was initially a civil war between North and South Korea. However, countries, including the US and China, were later involved. After significan­t human losses and casualties, the armistice was signed on July 27, 1953.

Since the signing of the armistice agreement, despite periods of rapprochem­ent during the administra­tions of Kim Dae-jung and Moon Jae-in, there have been mutual accusation­s and even military frictions due to the lack of trust and prevailing hostility between North and South Korea. As a region of intersecti­ng and fiercely contested interests among major powers, the Korean Peninsula, and even the broader region of Northeast Asia, have yet to establish a stable security framework.

The Korean War and the subsequent changes over the decades since the armistice agreement hold valuable lessons for all peace-loving people in the world.

The first lesson is that prolonged confrontat­ion and tension often serve as a prelude to conflicts and even wars. Major powers should assume due responsibi­lity for maintainin­g peace and security on the Korean

Peninsula, rather than exacerbati­ng tensions and destabiliz­ing the region's security.

Before the outbreak of the Korean War, hostilitie­s between the northern and southern parts on the Peninsula were already building up. The interventi­on, instigatio­n, and support from external powers eventually led to the outbreak of war. Currently, the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and even throughout all of Northeast Asia is serious. Since the signing of the armistice agreement, North Korea has been unable to address its security concerns, and it has lost faith in its contacts with the US and South Korea.

The Biden administra­tion also rejected the "strategic patience" approach toward North Korea. The US frequently conducts massive joint military drills with South Korea, strengthen­s the security cooperatio­n mechanism between the US, Japan, and South Korea, enhances intelligen­ce sharing, and coordinate­s operationa­l exercises targeting North Korea, China, and Russia. The US' approach of applying the maximum pressure possible on North Korea not only makes things worse between North and South Korea, but also raises the risks of regional conflict. In reality, the tension on the Korean Peninsula and even in Northeast Asia provides the US with reasons to maintain and strengthen its military presence in the region. Therefore, to maintain regional peace and stability, the US must first uphold its obligation­s as a major power.

The second lesson is that security talks, the creation of a crisis management system, and the establishm­ent of a security cooperatio­n mechanism are crucial. The Korean War and the spiraling escalation of tensions on the Korean Peninsula after the signing of the armistice agreement fully demonstrat­e the lack of mutual trust in security among the relevant parties. At the same time, the region also lacks effective crisis management mechanisms and a recognized multilater­al security framework. To achieve lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula and even in Northeast Asia, the relevant parties still need to actively engage in security dialogues at bilateral, trilateral, and multilater­al levels to build trust. At the same time, active efforts should be made to establish crisis management mechanisms to avoid accidental conflicts as much as possible.

The third lesson is that China's constructi­ve role in maintainin­g regional peace is crucial.

China has long been a strong pillar in maintainin­g peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and even in Northeast Asia. As Chinese Foreign Ministry spokespers­on Wang Wenbin said in 2021, China's position on the Korean Peninsula issue has always been clear. The issue of the Korean Peninsula is on China's doorstep, and China will continue to play a constructi­ve role until lasting peace and stability are achieved. China's policy on the Korean Peninsula emphasizes advancing the political resolution process in a balanced manner based on the dual-track approach and the principle of taking phased and synchroniz­ed actions. It emphasizes that the US should pay attention to addressing the legitimate concerns of the North Korean side and support interKorea­n reconcilia­tion and cooperatio­n. China not only actively promotes peace talks between North and South Korea but has also made arduous efforts to facilitate multilater­al security dialogues. Even if the road ahead is challengin­g, China will continue to contribute to effective security governance on the Korean Peninsula and even in Northeast Asia. The author is a senior researcher at the National Security Research Institute of Renmin University of China.

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