28 July 2003


NEW YORK, 25 July (UN Headquarters) -- The following message was issued by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Korean War Armistice Agreement, signed on 27 July 1953:

On 27 July 1953, the Armistice Agreement brought an end to the Korean War and, in the words of the Agreement, “its great toll of suffering and bloodshed”.  Yet even today, 50 years later, the Korean conflict remains unresolved.  Families are still divided.  Fear and mistrust are widespread.  The current controversy over the nuclear weapons programme of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a sobering reminder of the risks that this unfinished business poses to the region, to the world at large, and, above all, to the people of both Koreas, who most directly bear the burden of the differences that divide their homeland and today raise the spectre of a new conflagration.

Resolving the nuclear and related security issues has got to be the most pressing priority.  A diplomatic solution is imperative.  It is also a realistic possibility.  There is a strong international consensus that the Korean peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons.  The countries of the region have declared their willingness to address the matter jointly, through peaceful means.  The inter-Korean dialogue, galvanized by the Pyongyang summit in 2000 and by the Republic of Korea’s policy of “peace and prosperity”, is providing helpful impetus.  And my Personal Envoy will intensify his efforts to help avert a humanitarian calamity in the DPRK, defuse current tensions and prepare for a new era of peaceful development.  I urge all the parties to work determinedly towards a peaceful, negotiated solution, including through an early resumption of the Beijing talks.

Resolving the current stand-off must be the first step towards a permanent resolution of the Korean conflict.  Only a comprehensive settlement will prevent the recurrence of new crises.  Such an agreement will have to cover a wide range of security, military, political, human rights and economic issues, culminating in a peace treaty.  There is a need to set out a vision of, and prepare for, the full economic integration of the DPRK with the rest of the international community.  We will not succeed in this undertaking without considerable patience, perseverance and political will.

This fiftieth anniversary offers an opportunity to disperse the ominous cloud that, for too long, has threatened the stability and prosperity of the Korean peninsula.  I call on the international community to join in a sustained effort towards a reunified Korea and a peace that will last for generations to come.  The United Nations, for which the Korean conflict has been of special significance, will continue to be an active partner in this quest.

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