TOKYO — The United States has floated to North Korea an idea of declaring nonaggression or peace between the two countries as they prepare for summit talks in Vietnam later in the month, Japanese and U.S. government sources said Thursday.
The idea, which the sources said has been sounded out during working-level talks, shows Washington’s readiness to cede to North Korea’s demand of security guarantees in exchange for denuclearization. But such declarations will not be legally binding.
North Korea, for its part, has been reluctant to hand over a list of its nuclear and missile assets to the United States, leaving uncertainties as to whether the countries can agree on the issue during the two weeks left before the meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Feb. 27 to 28.
The United States and North Korea remain technically in a state of war due to the 1950 to 1953 Korean War having ended in a cease-fire, not a peace treaty. North Korea has long pressed the United States for a peace treaty as a way to ensure the survival of its regime.
Seeing little chance of winning support from the U.S. Congress over sealing a legally binding peace treaty, Washington once considered adopting a declaration to formally end the Korean War.
But it has given up on the plan, apparently because it is not easy to swiftly win the consent of all parties involved in the treaty, including South Korea and China with which Washington is locked in a trade war, according to the sources.
Instead, it is seeking a nonaggression or a peace declaration with North Korea that would not have to involve other countries.
U.S. special representative to North Korea Stephen Biegun, who visited Pyongyang for three days from Feb. 6 for working-level talks to prepare for the summit, has informed Japanese and South Korean officials about what he discussed with his North Korean counterpart Kim Hyok Chol.
Biegun plans to meet with Kim Hyok Chol again in the week starting Sunday.
In the Korean War, the United States and the United Nations fought alongside South Korea against a North Korean invasion supported by China and the former Soviet Union. Hostilities ceased with an armistice agreement signed on July 27, 1953, by the U.S.-led U.N. Command, North Korea and China. South Korea, however, refused to sign.