|Barricades are set up in front of Tongil Bridge in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, in this Sept. 24 photo. Yonhap|
By Kang Seung-woo
A series of moves regarding North Korea are raising speculation that talks for a declaration to officially end the Korean War are gaining momentum.
According to sources, Park Jie-won, head of South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS), sat down for talks in Seoul, Monday, with Avril Haines, the U.S. director of national intelligence.
Although details of their discussion were not made public, they were said to have talked about President Moon Jae-in's proposal for a declaration to formally end the war, and a subsequent push by Seoul and Washington to bring Pyongyang back to denuclearization talks.
The two Koreas are still technically at war, as the 1950-53 conflict ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, and Moon suggested once again in his United Nations speech in September that the two Koreas and the United States, probably joined by China, declare a formal end to the war.
In addition, the chief nuclear negotiators of the three countries are set to hold a trilateral meeting in Washington, D.C., Tuesday (local time), further fueling conjecture that an "end-of-war" declaration may be high on the agenda.
"I expect more in-depth discussions on various issues at the working level, including the end-of-war declaration," Noh Kyu-duk, Seoul's top nuclear envoy, told reporters at Dulles International Airport, Saturday.
"The declaration is meaningful as a gateway to talks for complete denuclearization and lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula."
"I think that it is one of the issues under discussion among the parties involved in the North Korea issue. The Moon government is openly pressing for an end of war declaration, including the President himself and the ministers of foreign affairs and unification. And it would be an important political move if it happens," said Ramon Pacheco Pardo, a professor of international relations at King's College London.
Pacheco Pardo also said North Korea would be interested in the proposal.
"North Korea has realized that it has to address U.S.-North Korea and inter-Korean relations in parallel now that Biden is U.S. president," he said.
"It has also realized that it has to address political relations with the U.S., inter-Korean reconciliation, nuclear issues and possible economic assistance in parallel. This wasn't the case during the Trump years, but it is under Biden."
Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, said a series of moves by the three countries were aimed at containing North Korea's military provocation rather than declaring an end to the Korean War.
"When it comes to ending the Korean War, the DNI need not come to Korea let alone the Central Intelligence Agency chief," Park said.
CIA Director William Burn also visited here last week to meet with President Moon.
Park said recent moves between the three countries may have to do with the Kim Jong-un regime's bellicosity that has ratcheted up tensions on the peninsula with its multiple missile tests.
According to a report by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) under the U.S. Department of Defense, North Korea may resume underground nuclear tests if it does not agree to complete denuclearization. The country last conducted its sixth nuclear test in September 2017.
The repeated meetings of the nuclear envoys appears to be focused on keeping North Korea's provocative actions in check ahead of bringing the country back to negotiations.