Peace on the Korean Peninsula will require disarmament

As Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un meet in Singapore, humanitarian disarmament organizations are highlighting the importance of disarmament more broadly to a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Both nuclear weapons and anti-personnel landmines will need to be addressed by the states involved.

The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula has been a topic of much discussion. Working behind the scenes for the last month, a group of the world’s foremost nuclear disarmament experts have mapped out the best pathway for total denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, determining that the existing international treaty framework is the most appropriate solution.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), winner of the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for efforts to promote denuclearization through a treaty-based solution, presented the “Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Roadmap” at a press conference in Singapore ahead of the historic meeting between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump.

The plan begins by recognizing the horrific loss of life and suffering that would be caused by any use of nuclear weapons. Experts agree that even a limited nuclear engagement on the Korean Peninsula would see upwards of 30 warheads detonated causing massive loss of life and cataclysmic environmental damage in North Korea and South Korea, as well as the entire Northeast Asia region. Any solution to the crisis requires all parties to reject nuclear weapons outright on humanitarian grounds, through the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

The roadmap outlines a solution to the question of how the Korean Peninsula will be denuclearized where states recognize the unacceptable humanitarian risk of nuclear weapons; reject weapons by joining the TPNW; remove existing weapons with verifiable and time-bound plans; ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); and rejoin the world community through the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

“The existing treaty frameworks are the only way to make Korean denuclearization permanent,” said Beatrice Fihn, Executive Director of ICAN. “There has been little talk as to what an agreement could look like. This roadmap answers the question at the heart of negotiations: How do North Korea and South Korea denuclearize in a way that is verifiable, irreversible and won't unravel?”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is the central point of the plan and joining the Treaty would oblige North Korea to immediately cease any development, production, and manufacture of nuclear weapons. North Korea would also be obliged to eliminate its nuclear-weapon programme, to resume implementation of its International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) comprehensive safeguards agreement, and to conclude and implement an Additional Protocol with the IAEA.

The plan also calls on South Korea, which has not had nuclear weapons on their soil since the early 1990s, to denuclearize. South Korea must formally reject the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence in order to guarantee nuclear weapons will not be used on their behalf. This would not change existing military treaties between the US and South Korea, and the current “nuclear umbrella” security arrangement would be transformed to a general “security umbrella.” For its part, the US would take a practical step towards denuclearization by finally following through on its commitment to ratify the CTBT. North Korea and China would join the US in this step. Ultimately, ICAN calls on the US and all states to sign and ratify the TPNW and join the 122 nations who adopted the Treaty at the UN last July in moving towards a global nuclear weapons ban.

The plan at a glance:

Recognize the risk of nuclear use and unacceptable humanitarian consequences of such use.

Reject nuclear weapons by joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

Remove – a verifiable and irreversible plan for disarmament

Ratify the CTBT and verify through the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization

Rejoin the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the world community

The full Korean Peninsula Denuclearization Framework is available for download here:

Beyond denuclearization, the issue of anti-personnel landmines should be on the agenda not just at the Kim-Trump summit but at other talks aimed at building peace on the Korean Peninsula. The Korean Peninsula is one of the most heavily landmine contaminated places on the planet. The Landmine Monitor has received reports of between 500 and 3,000 landmine casualties in South Korea but has no estimate of the number of casualties in North Korea. Despite the threat to civilians living near the Demilitarized Zone, landmines have not received much attention during this process.

Should this summit start a serious peace process, the United States of America, North Korea and South Korea will all need to deal with the landmines in the Demilitarized Zone. Similar to the calls from ICAN for North Korea and South Korea to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, both North Korea and South Korea should join the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines together. Acceding to the Treaty together will be a confidence and peace building measure. There is a proven track record of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines being used to build confidence between states - Greece and Turkey joined the treaty simultaneously to further political trust between the two states. After joining the Ottawa Treaty, North and South Korea will have to demine the Demilitarized Zone. Working together to clear the landmines can further build trust and peace between the former adversaries as seen by the close cooperation between Ecuador and Peru to clear their formerly contested border of landmines. By joining and implementing the Ottawa Treaty together, North Korea and South Korea can begin to work towards a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Mines Action Canada hopes that the Trump-Kim Summit in Singapore will bring renewed attention to the disarmament of the Korean Peninsula. We call on both parties to join the Ottawa Treaty and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an immediate peace dividend. It is time to take the first in a number of steps towards a nuclear weapons and landmine free peaceful Korean Peninsula.