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Record of Korean treaties hard to find, says historian

All eyes were on Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un meeting in Singapore at the Capella Hotel island resort to start a proccess of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula. But governments are bound to signed documents, laws, decrees, and orders that people are expected to follow.

Published: June 12, 2018, 1:49 pm

    The documents concerning Korea after Japan officially lost it as a colony following the Second World War will play an important part in any reunification proccess. However, they are hard to find, says American historian Robert Willmann.

    The US Government Printing Office, now called the publishing office, no longer prints treaties and agreements, and rarely publishes them in digital form, possibly because of a lack of money.

    The US State Department has taken over the task, but has published only more recent documents, starting in 1996. The Library of Congress is currently working on making all treaties available in digital form, but is still working on the period from 1950-1984 and has not yet finished.

    Congress never declared war to start the US involvement in the Korean War and no treaty was signed to conclude it. There were however United Nations resolutions guiding American military involvement.

    As a technical legal matter, the Korean War has therefore not ended. There was an “agreement concerning a military armistice in Korea, with annex,” and a “temporary agreement supplementary to the armistice agreement in Korea,” signed at Panmunjom on 27 July 1953.

    Citations to treaties and agreements regarding Korea are usually done in the form of: [number] UST [number], and TIAS [number]. UST refers to the “United States Treaties and Other International Agreements”, which is a bound volume made up of the individual documents. TIAS refers to “Texts of International Agreements” and “Treaties and Other International Acts Series”, and is the individual treaty or agreement published as a separate item, which would then became part of the bound volume, the UST, Willmann noted and added that it would be of great importance when searching for an agreement framework.

    “The date a war ends can vary, depending on the activity being looked at and when it is concluded. Although the Korean armistice was signed on 27 July 1953, the US government describes the conflict as starting on 27 June 1950 and ending on 31 January 1955.

    “This is the time period for determining Veterans’ pension and disability benefits and concerning the Department of Veterans Affairs.”

    A useful paper from 2017 by the Congressional Research Service has listed the time periods of US conflicts starting with the Indian Wars beginning in 1817 to the military action aimed at ISIS.

    The State Department puts out a publication called “Treaties in Force”, which include those for South Korea still in effect that run from 1948 to 2017. There are five treaties relating to atomic energy and 48 about defense.


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