The Korea Herald


Cables show NK tried to undermine US amid efforts for Korean peace

By Choi Si-young

Published : April 6, 2023 - 15:55

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The flags of the US, South Korea and North Korea (from left to right). (123rf) The flags of the US, South Korea and North Korea (from left to right). (123rf)

North Korea had sought to undermine the US-led United Nations Command and joint military exercises between US and South Korea, the two biggest deterrents preventing the North’s potential attacks, amid efforts for peace on the Korean Peninsula, according to the latest diplomatic cables released Thursday.

The declassified papers made public by the Foreign Ministry in Seoul to update the public on events dating to 30 years ago showed the North had asked US allies and partners to remove their officers in the UNC in the South, saying a 1992 inter-Korean pact that took effect in February rendered the command obsolete.

It was the first official deal on inter-Korean ties to facilitate peace that could help end the 1950-53 Korean War armistice agreement -- the reason the UNC, which signed it on behalf of South Korea after fighting off North Korea, has since been in charge of mobilizing forces from 18 member states in case the North repeats an invasion.

The move to diminish the command that came shortly after the 1992 deal went into effect was, however, met with opposition. The five countries the North reached out -- Australia, Canada, France, Thailand and the United Kingdom -- all rejected the proposal, stressing “lasting peace” was still missing, according to the papers.

The documents showed that later in 1992, Seoul’s Foreign Ministry made it policy not to entertain any unilateral attempts to change the role of the UNC. Seoul broke with tradition in 2018 when then-President Moon Jae-in floated signing a formal declaration ending the Korean War, a contentious idea that never materialized amid opposition that it would be premature.

North Korea, the papers also showed, had eyed on weakening South Korea-US ties amid inter-Korean peace efforts by demanding Washington suspend its annual military drills with Seoul. Pyongyang labels them as “rehearsals for war,” while the two allies describe them as “tests for readiness.”

In November 1992, North Korea’s ambassador to the US called for a separate Washington-Pyongyang meeting to discuss a suspension. The US seemed to be uninterested in what the North had to say, according to the papers.

Meanwhile, the cables revealed that former President Chun Doo-hwan, who took power in a 1979 military coup, unsuccessfully sought US support in 1987 for renewing his term. Mounting protests led him to scrap the plan, opening the way for free elections. They took place in December the same year following a referendum endorsing a constitutional change that guarantees such elections.