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Korean and U.S. Religious Leaders Join to Address Korea Crisis

Call on U.S. Government to Renounce Military Option, Provide Generous Humanitarian Aid to North Koreans; Group to Take Message Directly to White House, Congress, State Department

June 18, 2003, WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the face of mounting tensions between the United States and North Korea, religious leaders from South Korea and the United States joined humanitarian experts today (June 18) in calling for the U.S. government to promote a peaceful solution to the crisis.

They pressed for the prompt reconvening of talks with North Korea and an end to the threat of preemptive force. At the same time as those talks address North Korea’s nuclear program, they also must address the North’s security concerns, economic and humanitarian needs, the religious leaders said.

"A clear statement from the White House that North Korea will not be attacked will establish a political climate for progress in negotiations," they said.

The appeal is the result of a three-day consultation on the Korea crisis, sponsored by the National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service. The consultation was attended by close to 80 Korea experts from churches, humanitarian agencies, the United Nations, academia and other sectors from the United States, South Korea, Canada and other countries.

Urged NCC General Secretary Bob Edgar, "We need to advance not a view of preemptive war but of diplomatic priorities, not of first strike but a view of care for one another. If we want to show shock and awe, we need to show love and justice."

The NCC and CWS, together with their 36 member denominations, have been working with their North and South Korean counterparts for more than two decades in peace building, reconciliation and humanitarian assistance. Concerned about the escalation in tensions between the United States and North Korea, they met this week to seek to bring their particular voice in favor of a peaceful resolution of the Korea crisis.

Specifically the leaders called for:

  • The prompt reconvening of talks with North Korea. "It is our conviction that diplomacy and negotiations remain the best approach for finding durable solutions," they said.
  • The conclusion of a non-aggression pact between North Korea and the United States, renouncement of pre-emptive attack and negotiation of a peace treaty, replacing the present Armistice Treaty of 1953.
  • The establishment and exchange of liaison offices between the United States and North Korea as a sign of good faith.
  • Immediate action to address the grave humanitarian needs of the North Korean people, whose very lives depend on external food aid. They asked for additional support for the World Food Program to prevent further deterioration in the health of the population.

The consultation reached its agreement after three days of input and discussion with Korea experts, and faith-based humanitarian agencies providing direct aid, and advocacy with U.S. policy makers

Other participants noted:

Maurice Strong, advisor on Korea issues to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan - "If the United States were to take the lead in effecting a peaceful settlement, it would get universal support."

Dr. Selig S. Harrison of the Center for International Policy - "We can get a settlement -- if we want one. The question is whether the U.S. government wants it or just wants an excuse for regime change."

CWS Executive Director John L. McCullough at the consultation's opening session -- "We continue to mourn the separation of the Korean people. Because a formal treaty was never concluded, a state of war still officially exists between the U.S. and North Korea. On July 27, the world will mark the 50th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement that divided the Korean peninsula into North and South. It is imperative church leaders from the United States and from Korea come together and merge our voices and passion to effect a different future."

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Message on the Korea Crisis

An Ecumenical Consultation of
the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and Church World Service
June 16-18, 2003

As members of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America (NCCCUSA) and Church World Service and Witness (CWSW), concerned with a more peaceful and just world, we call attention to the profound social, political and humanitarian crisis affecting the Korean peninsula today.

From June 16 – 18, 2003, the NCCCUSA and CWSW sponsored a consultation in Washington, DC with our church partners from the National Councils of Churches in Korea and Japan, church agencies from Canada, the Christian Conference of Asia and the World Council of Churches. This consultation focused on the search for the means toward lasting peace in the Korean peninsula.

For two decades, the NCCCUSA and CWSW have actively engaged their member communions in responding to the Korean people’s aspiration for peace and reunification. We have encouraged our government and Congress to take bold steps to help break down the walls of division between North and South Korea. We have met with and facilitated contacts between the Christian communities of North and South. And since the famine began in 1996, Church World Service has provided over $4 million in humanitarian aid. We now call upon all the parties concerned diligently to work for and participate in a process to defuse any potential military conflict, and expand its efforts to resolve the crisis of hunger threatening the well being of millions of North Koreans.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to ministries of reconciliation, to work unceasingly to break down the barriers that divide human beings one from another. This reconciliation is urgently needed today in Korea, which for half a century has been divided. The people who live in this divided country are yearning for reunification. Reconciliation is also necessary between the USA and North Korea. The churches must engage in a ministry of reconciliation reaching out to Christians and Korean people of other faiths to engage them in dialogue as well as to affirm our common humanity with all members of God’s family.

We note that in the period leading up to 1999, and again in April this year, North Korea had taken steps towards reducing tensions by making concessions in its nuclear program. Unfortunately, the US has not responded in kind nor has the international community. The need for embarking on a sustained dialogue is borne out by recent events. North Korea’s first announcement to US envoys in April, in Beijing, China, that it already possesses nuclear bombs, its extreme nervousness about the implications of the Bush administration’s "preemptive war" policy, and the ongoing humanitarian emergency in the country make it imperative that the US move forward urgently on a comprehensive dialogue with North Korea. Building on the Beijing talks that included Chinese participation, such a dialogue needs to address not only the North’s nuclear program but also its security concerns, and economic and humanitarian needs. A clear statement from the White House that North Korea will not be attacked will establish a political climate for progress in negotiations. Confrontational policies risk provoking North Korea’s rulers to escalate the nuclear crisis, to press ahead with the further development of its nuclear program, and to significantly increase the risk for millions of people on the Korean peninsula.

We the participants of the consultation propose the following plan of action:

  1. The churches:

a) We urge our member communions to: 1) encourage their congregations to contemplate how the Gospel’s call to be peacemakers applies to their understanding of the Korean situation, 2) be advocates for the resolution of the current conflict through peaceful means, 3) dialogue with members of Congress to press ahead for a multilateral and diplomatic solution to the current crisis and 4) urge the President to continue with negotiations and not draw back from the potential of war with North Korea and increase humanitarian assistance as a sign of goodwill and the desire for peace.

b) We call on the ecumenical community to continue to nurture their ties with the Christian community on the Korean peninsula and to renew its cooperation in common advocacy, information sharing and regular visits, particularly to the isolated Christian family in North Korea. Just as we know that God will not leave a people without witness, we are confident that our loving God will not abandon the people of North Korea.

c) We encourage the participation and cooperation of all Koreans in the diaspora in these activities.

 

II. Negotiations

a) We call for the prompt reconvening of talks with North Korea. We urge that the talks not only focus on the nuclear issue but include developing means and mechanisms to a sustainable peace on the Korean peninsula. We recognize that various proposals are under consideration as are the modalities for negotiations. Given that a comprehensive and lasting peace requires international cooperation, we encourage the international community particularly those countries in the region, to participate as actively as appropriate. It is our conviction that diplomacy and negotiations remain the best approach for finding durable solutions.

b) There should be a clear US statement in favor of a peaceful resolution to the tensions on the peninsula. As part of a reenergized dialogue to arrive at a comprehensive settlement for peace and political reunion on the peninsula, we urge the administration to pledge not to preemptively attack North Korea, to conclude a non-aggression pact and to move toward a comprehensive peace formally ending the "state of war" that has existed since 1953. In this regard, ending the Armistice and replacing it with a peace treaty will help promote a political climate conducive to lasting peace on the peninsula.

III Humanitarian crisis

a) The grave humanitarian crisis of hunger, chronic malnutrition and related diseases facing the North Korean people challenge the international community to take immediate action to help address the immense needs, including an immediate additional contribution to the World Food Program to prevent further deterioration in the health of the population. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, and the top officials of both the World Food Program and UNICEF, have issued urgent appeals calling attention to the deteriorating humanitarian crisis. We further urge the US administration to immediately begin a dialogue on humanitarian aid.

b) We appeal to the member communions to contribute generously to CWS’s 2003 Appeal on North Korea and to other agencies as appropriate.

c) We strongly encourage the international community and our churches urgently to provide assistance in health and agricultural sectors where there are immense needs.  Medicine and medical equipment are in very short supply.  Animal husbandry, livestock production, fertilizers, farm equipment and seeds will be enormously beneficial to the farmers and farm cooperatives.

IV Economic engagement

We encourage increased trade, commerce and investment with North Korea especially in view of changes taking place in the North Korean economy and . Such an engagement will enable the latter to increase its interaction with the international community at multiple levels thus providing a better foundation for political stability and economic sustainability in North East Asia.

V. Inter-Korean Relations

Critical for the future of the Korean peninsula is affirmation and respect for the sovereignty of the Korean people. Equally important is continued improvement in inter-Korean relationships. We celebrate the implementation of the sunshine policy and the June 2000 summit in promoting social, cultural and economic exchange programs. The December 13, 1991 Inter-Korean Agreement for Non-Aggression, Reconciliation, Exchange and Cooperation should continue to be implemented jointly by both authorities. More opportunities for family reunion involving far more numbers of Koreans should be further arranged between North and South.

VI. US-North Korea Relations

Confidence-building measures to support peace efforts remain key for improved relations between the US and North Korea. We urge the US government to refrain from any punitive initiatives towards North Korea and not to impose restrictions on North Korea’s ability to engage in its economic development. Furthermore, we encourage the establishment and exchange of liaison offices between the US and North Korea as a sign of good faith for improving bilateral relations leading ultimately to the normalization of relations. We also call for more frequent exchanges between separated Korean families the US and North Korea.

Our Hope

Out of the crisis of today, we affirm that a more hopeful future will one day come to all of the people of Korea. We affirm the commitment of the churches to take a stand in solidarity with the Korean people and to take actions to support reunification and peace. We give thanks to God that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus God has promised a new humanity, in which we are no longer strangers to one another but citizens and members of the house of God, with Jesus Christ himself as the corner stone (Ephesians 2: 14-20.)

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