Leaders in the U.S. and North Korea are not backing down when it comes to escalating tensions in the Korean peninsula, and on Wednesday a unified plea from 40 women leaders around the world demanded that President Donald Trump immediately seek a peace treaty between South Korea and nuclear-armed North Korea.
"This endless militarization must stop."
—WomenCrossDMZThe women belong to the group WomenCrossDMZ, and "are from academia, business, civil society and the military, and represent a diversity of ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and political views," the letter (pdf) reads. "We are united by our belief that diplomacy is the only way to resolve the nuclear crisis and threat of war now facing the Korean peninsula."
Christine Ahn, a peace activist and organizer for WomenCrossDMZ, told the New York Times that the group of women thought of the letter as "our own Scud missile" to put a halt to the frightening escalation of tensions.
"We urge you to do the following to avert war in Korea and bring about a long-desired peace on the peninsula," the women urged:
- Negotiate a freeze of North Korea's nuclear and long-range ballistic program in exchange for a U.S. security guarantee that would include suspending U.S.-South Korea military exercises.
- Initiate a peace process with North Korea, South Korea, and China to replace the 1953 Armistice Agreement with a binding peace treaty to end the Korean War. Women must be significantly represented in the peace process in accordance with the spirit of UNSCR 1325.
- Support citizen diplomacy to heal the legacies of the Korean War by establishing a liaison office in Washington and Pyongyang to facilitate retrieval of U.S. Korean War servicemen's remains and Korean-American family reunions.
"Since 1950, the Korean peninsula has been threatened with nuclear weapons, missile tests, and military exercises that have only served to make 75 million Korean people less secure," the women write. "In the United States and on both sides of the Korean De-Militarized Zone, the absence of a binding peace accord fuels fear and economic deprivation caused by diverting public resources in preparation for war, including deploying the controversial THAAD missile defense system in South Korea. This endless militarization must stop."
Indeed, the U.S. provoked local protests in a small rural village in South Korea Wednesday when it moved parts of the anti-missile defense system called Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) there, Reuters reported.
"Protesters shouted and hurled water bottles at [military trailers carrying equipment] over lines of police holding them back," the wire service wrote.
The U.S. also earned additional criticism from China for its actions. Reuters reported:
"China strongly urges the United States and South Korea to stop actions that worsen regional tensions and harm China's strategic security interests and cancel the deployment of the THAAD system and withdraw the equipment," Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a briefing.
"China will resolutely take necessary steps to defend its interests," Geng said, without elaborating.
The letter came as Trump prepares to brief the U.S. Senate Wednesday on the heightened situation in the Korean peninsula. Trump made the unusual move of inviting all members of the Senate to the White House for the briefing, Reuters noted.
Francis Boyle, professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law, warned about the possible plans of the Trump administration:
This is a dangerous situation because what Trump could be doing here is to lay some bogus Constitutional predicate for war against DPRK [North Korea], claiming that he's consulting Congress. In fact, Trump has no authorization for war against DPRK. There was never a Declaration of War by Congress against DPRK. He is currently in violation of the War Powers Resolution Section 2(c) since he is putting U.S. armed forces 'into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances.' He would also be violating the United Nations Charter because the Security Council has not authorized the use of military force to deal with the current situation.
The briefing is scheduled for 3pm.
Following the Senate briefing, the United Nations Security Council will discuss stepping up sanctions against North Korea on Friday, Reuters reports. U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will be attending. Tillerson previously vowed that when it comes to North Korea, all options, including a "preemptive strike," are on the table.
North Korea's foreign ministry condemned the upcoming U.N. meeting. "It is a wild dream for the U.S. to think of depriving the DPRK of its nuclear deterrent through military threat and sanctions. It is just like sweeping the sea with a broom," the agency said.
"For more than 70 years, isolation, arms, troops, and doomsday threats have been used to separate a once-unified country," feminist activist and author Gloria Steinem said, according to a press release from WomenCrossDMZ. "Isn't it time that leaders stop, recognize danger, and listen?"