Korean Armistice Agreement


Korean Armistice Agreement

The Korean Armistice Agreement is a document which was signed on July 27, 1953, thereby ending active combat in the Korean War. This document is still in effect, meaning that a technical state of war still exists between the two countries until such time as a new agreement can be reached and implemented officially ending the war.


The Korean Armistice Agreement was signed by military commanders from North Korea and China, as well as representatives from the United Nations Command acting on behalf of South Korea, which did not sign the agreement. Negotiation of the document took slightly more than two years to complete. The most important provisions of the Korean Armistice Agreement included an end to all active combat and instructions for creating protocols for exchanging prisoners of war by creating and empowering the Neutral Nations Supervisory Committee to oversee this process. The Korean Armistice Agreement also created the so-called "Demilitarized Zone" (DMZ), an area marking the border between North and South Korea patrolled by representatives of both parties.


Many issues were involved in the creation and signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, not all of which have been resolved. One concerns the signatures provided by representatives of the United Nations Command. According to the United States and other UN representatives involved in negotiating and signing the Korean Armistice Agreement, the signatures provided on behalf of South Korea name the United Nations as one of the parties involved in combat. However, North Korea insists that because the United Nations representative who signed the form was an American, the signature provided only binds the United States. Therefore, North Korea argues that no new valid agreement can be created that would succeed the Korean Armistice Agreement.


Another issue involved in creating a successor to the Korean Armistice Agreement concerns the term which should be used. If North Korea objects to the term "peace treaty," some scholars have argued that there is no legal issue in creating an agreement which is not explicitly labeled a treaty. Another issue concerns who would sign a binding successor to the Korean Armistice Agreement. Some scholars have argued that since a United Nations resolution binds all member nations, a succeeding document created and ratified by the United Nations could be effective in acting as an official treaty creating the conditions for a cessation of official hostilities.


However, difficulties involved in this kind of arrangement include the parties who signed the original document. Legally, it would be preferable for the United States not to sign the document and have representatives of South Korea do so instead. Similarly, it would be preferable for China not to co-sign any succeeding agreement to the Korean Armistice Agreement. By only having the two countries still at war sign the document, it would be granted greater political legitimacy. However, North Korea refuses to accede to this idea at this time.

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