"Historic engagement between South and North Korea has created a once-in-a-generation opportunity to formally end this war," House Armed Services Committee member Ro Khanna (D-CA), said in a statement. "President Trump must not squander this rare chance for peace. He should work hand in hand with our ally, South Korean President Moon Jae-in, to bring the war to a close and advance toward the denuclearization of the peninsula."
Other representatives endorsing the bill include Andy Kim (D-NJ), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Deb Haaland (D-NM), and Jan Schakowsky (D-IL).
The move comes only hours before US President Donald Trump is slated to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, for a second round of negotiations regarding denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. Progress after the first meeting, on June 12 of last year, stalled as the US refused to remove economic sanctions against the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK, North Korea's formal name) before what US Secretary of State Mike Pence called "verified denuclearization," and Pyongyang refused to make further moves toward destroying its capacity to build nuclear weapons until it saw some reciprocation from Washington.
While the shooting war between the US and South Korea on one side, and DPRK and China on the other, ended in 1953, no formal peace treaty has ever been signed, meaning the countries remain at war. Pyongyang and Seoul reached a historic end-of-war declaration last September amid unprecedented warming of relations between the two countries, and Trump mused at that time that a similar move by the US might follow. Roughly 28,000 US troops, in the form of US Forces Korea, remain stationed in South Korea as a bulwark against subsequent conflict, although the demilitarized zone between the two Koreas also provides that.
"The resolution clarifies that ending the war does not necessitate a withdrawal of US troops from Korea or an acceptance of North Korea as a legitimate nuclear power," Khanna said. "The resolution calls on the Administration to continue the repatriation of servicemember remains, and expand cooperation to achieve reunions of divided Korean and Korean-American families and facilitate people-to-people exchanges and humanitarian cooperation."
The US lost 54,000 soldiers in the war, which it entered to stop the socialist DPRK from conquering the capitalist and Western-aligned South. However, the brutal campaigns back and forth across the country, including the indiscriminate bombing war waged by the US against the North, along with political massacres on both sides, saw over 2.5 million Koreans killed, according to South Korean Ministry of National Defense data.
Following the lawmaker's announcement, Kevin Martin, President of Peace Action and Coordinator of the Korea Peace Network, released a statement, saying, "This legislation offers a common sense vision for achieving peace and advancing nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula that all members of Congress should be able to get behind. With its timely introduction on the eve of the second summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, this bill offers a blueprint for diplomacy that rightly acknowledges that real progress cannot be made in negotiations without reciprocal steps and confidence-building measures by all parties at the table."
"Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and the original cosponsors of this bill are wisely rising above the fraught politics of Washington D.C. to express their unequivocal support for the diplomatic process, while also holding the administration accountable to Congress by requesting a plan to achieve lasting peace and nuclear disarmament on the Korean Peninsula," he continued.
"By supporting a declaration of the end of the Korean War and calling for a formal peace agreement to officially end the war, this legislation represents an emerging understanding in Congress that denuclearization cannot be achieved without peace. Establishing a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula is critical to removing North Korea's rationale for maintaining its nuclear arsenal, which it sees as a deterrent against invasion by countries that it is still technically at war with. Declaring an end to the war or signing a formal peace agreement are not concessions, they are mutually beneficial steps towards reducing the risk of conflict and advancing the cause of nuclear disarmament."
Former US President Jimmy Carter also endorsed the initiative, saying in a statement that ending the war "is the only way to ensure true security for both the Korean and American people and will create the conditions to alleviate the suffering of the ordinary North Koreans who are most harmed by ongoing tensions," the Hill reported.