Friday, December 29, 2006

The Korean War Never Ended

Better not tell Hawkeye Pierce and the rest of the gang from M*A*S*H, but the Korean War is
technically still happening. This comes to us from no less an authority than Howard S. Levie, the
I man who drafted the Korean Armistice Agreement. At the time, this law professor was a
captain in the Office of the Judge Advocate General (JAG). He explains:
An armistice is not a peace treaty. While its main objective is to bring about a cease-fire, a
halt to hostilities, that halt may be indefinite or for a specified period of time only. An
armistice agreement does not terminate the state of war between the belligerents. A state of
war continues to exist with all of its implications for the belligerents and for the neutrals.
The Korean Armistice itself even specifies that it is only a stop-gap measure "until a final
peaceful settlement is achieved." To date, this settlement — otherwise known as a peace
treaty — has never occurred. One attempt was made, at the Geneva Convention of 1954, but
nothing came of it.
Interestingly, the Armistice wasn't signed at all by South Korea but rather by the head honchos in
the United Nations Command, North Korea's army, and China's army. It should also be noted
that the conflict in Korea wasn't technically a "war," because — like so many other post-WWII
hostilities — there was no formal declaration of war. As The Korean War: An Encyclopedia
trenchantly observes: "Since the war had never been declared, it was fitting that the should be no
official ending, merely a suspension of hostilities."
North Korea has more than once denounced the Armistice, threatening to press the "play" button
on the long-paused Korean War. Most recently, in February 2003, Kim Jong-il's government said
that because of repeated US violations, the Armistice is merely "a blank piece of paper without
any effect or significance."

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