(Bloomberg) -- As disputes go, this one really has dragged on. Some 65 years since open hostilities ended in the Korean War, North Korea and the U.S. are still technically at war. However, after a sudden warming of relations this year between North Korea and both South Korea and the U.S., the prospects of a resolution appear to have improved dramatically.
1. Why is the Korean War still not over?
Because the parties involved in talks to end the war -- North and South Korea, China and the United Nations (representing the international community, including the U.S.) -- never were able to agree on a peace treaty. What was signed in 1953 was only an armistice, or truce, and only among three of the four parties, as South Korea held out. That’s why the border between the two nations has been one of the world’s tensest for decades.
2. How does this fit into North Korea’s strategy?
North Korea wants a security guarantee to ensure the survival of Kim’s regime. A peace treaty would be part of that. Once a treaty were signed, the way would be open to North Korea getting full diplomatic recognition from the U.S.
3. So when will the war end?
Soon, according to U.S. President Donald Trump. At his historic June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore, Trump committed to halt military drills with South Korea for the time being, calling them “provocative” to North Korea. Trump also said Kim agreed to return more than 6,000 American war dead.
4. What would happen if a treaty were signed too early?
Once a treaty were signed, questions would be raised about the rationale for keeping U.S. troops in South Korea. If there were to be a troop withdrawal -- something Trump talked about during his election campaign -- before North Korea denuclearized, then Japan and South Korea may feel the need to get their own nuclear weapons, setting off a regional arms race. However, in Singapore, Trump reiterated that while he wanted U.S. troops to return home “someday,” it was “not part of the equation right now.”
5. How are relations between North Korea and South Korea?
When Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met in April, they announced plans to formally declare a resolution to the war and turn the current armistice into a peace treaty by year’s end, as well as aiming for full denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
6. Have North Korea and South Korea ever come close to peace?
It’s seemed that way. At a 2007 summit in Pyongyang, President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong Il (Kim Jong Un’s father) settled on dozens of agreements aimed at supporting North Korea’s economy and recommitted to a declaration made at a summit in 2000 -- the first between leaders of North Korea and South Korea -- that the two sides would seek peaceful reunification.
7. What came of that peace effort?
Negotiations -- known as the “six-party talks” -- broke down in 2008 after North Korea refused to allow international inspectors to visit nuclear facilities. Around the same time, South Korea elected a conservative president, Lee Myung-bak, who favored a harder line and abandoned his predecessor’s so-called "Sunshine Policy" toward North Korea. The sinking of a South Korean corvette, killing 46 sailors, by a suspected North Korean torpedo prompted the newly elected president to cut off all ties.
The Reference Shelf
- The two Koreas are worlds apart after seven decades of separation.
- QuickTakes on the upcoming Trump-Kim meeting and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
- Will Kim give up his nukes? History says no.
- A North Korea deal must go beyond economics, writes Bloomberg View’s Michael Schuman.
- A Bloomberg infographic considers the range of North Korea’s missile threat.
- North Korea’s 10 deadliest provocations since the Korean War.
©2018 Bloomberg L.P.