North and South Korea, the U.S., and China have agreed "in principle" to formally end the Korean War, which effectively concluded with an armistice in 1953, but "we are not able to sit down for a discussion or negotiation on the declarations" due to North Korea's demands, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Monday during a visit to Australia. "We hope that talks will be initiated."
Pyongyang wants the U.S. to drop what it calls America's "hostile policy" toward it, Moon confirmed. North Korea has traditionally meant that to mean the presence of U.S. forces in South Korea, joint U.S.-South Korean training exercises, and U.S. sanctions on North Korea aimed at quashing its nuclear weapons buildup. The U.S. State Department told Axios that U.S. officials are "prepared to meet without preconditions," and "we hope" Pyongyang "will respond positively to our outreach.
"The end-of-war declaration itself is not an ultimate goal," Moon said, describing it instead as an essential step toward denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula.
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Moon "leaves office in March after five years of heartfelt pleas to bring permanent peace to the Korean Peninsula," writes BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker. "And yet North Korea remains more cut off than ever." Formally ending the war is Moon's "last hope," she adds, but neither the U.S. nor North Korea seem as enthusiastic or optimistic about the idea as he is. "There's a bigger problem for President Moon," Bicker notes. "South Korea did not sign the armistice. This end-of-war agreement is not his gift to give to the history books. He can keep trying to bring all parties to the table, but getting them all to agree to the details would be the diplomatic equivalent of climbing Everest."
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