Church leaders welcome Korean Peninsula peace moves

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The Korean Peninsula has been split since the end of the Second World War. Photo: Wollertz/Shutterstock

The ecumenical body representing churches in Korea—including the Anglican Church of Korea—have welcomed news that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has agreed to cease missile tests, pending a meeting between the country’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

The chair of the reconciliation and reunification committee of the National Council of Churches of Korea (NCCK), the Rev. Haekjib Ra, said that the ecumenical body remains convinced that dialogue is the only way to resolve military conflict on the Korean Peninsula peacefully. “Therefore, we request that the two countries, U.S. and North Korea, use this summit meeting to find the correct path to reconciliation and peace,” Ra told the World Council of Churches (WCC).

“Furthermore, we truly hope that the two sides will build trust with each other without threat of invasion and that this might become an opportunity to conclude a peace treaty that guarantees mutual peaceful coexistence.”

The summit between the two leaders arose following the first high-level direct talks between North and South Korea in more than a decade. The historic meeting last week between a South Korean special envoy delegation and North Korean leadership followed the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The two delegations agreed to hold a summit at the border village of Panmunjom at the end of April, and a hotline for communication between the two sides’ leaders will be established.

“The reported outcomes of those meetings are powerful signs of hope compared to dangerously escalating tensions and military confrontation of the recent past, and provide major encouragement to President Moon Jae-in’s diplomatic engagement with the North,” the WCC said in a statement.

The talks took place as representatives of Korean churches were meeting with international partners in a conference in Seoul organized by the NCCK to mark the 30th anniversary of the NCCK 1988 Declaration of the Churches of Korea on National Reunification and Peace.

“The WCC joins the participants in the NCCK conference in calling for the international community, and especially the United States of America, to respond affirmatively to these signs of hope, with reciprocal tension-reducing and trust-building measures,” the WCC statement said.

Participants at the NCCK conference issued a communiqué, Cultivating Peace, Proclaiming Hope, in which they expressed their fervent hope “that the momentum for peace will continue despite the undoubted difficulties and complexities lying ahead.” They said: “We pray that this momentum will not be reversed by the unwise resumption of threatening military exercises, and that the drums of war will be silenced.”

The Korean Peninsula has been split since the end of the Second World War, with a Soviet- and Chinese-linked communist regime in the North, and a U.S.-linked democratic nation in the South. Between 1950 and 1953, the two nations went to war following border incursions by North Korea. An armistice, including a border-area demilitarized zone, ended the conflict; but the two nations are officially still at war. In 2016, North Korea approached the U.S. to request peace talks, but the request was rejected because of a U.S. insistence that nuclear disarmament must be included in any treaty.

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