Churches has written to US President George W. Bush urging the lifting of sanctions on North Korea and also the use of diplomacy to replace an armistice signed on the Korean Peninsula in 1953 with a peace agreement.
Anglican Bishop Park Kyung-Jo, president of the National Council of Churches in Korea said he had sent his letter on behalf of churches to Bush on 7 July. In it he said: "It is generally understood that the sanctions against North Korea since 1950 have been enforced by the USA in its own political interest. Experts indicate that the sanctions against North Korea have been one of the significant causes of the increasing suffering of the North Korean people."
Bishop Park noted in the letter that if the United States was really serious in its intent to relieve the suffering of the North Korean people it should immediately lift the sanctions against the communist country. In addition, the churches urged the United States to initiate a diplomatic process to replace the armistice of 1953 with a peace agreement.
The bishop said the letter had come after church leaders and representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and member churches in Asia, Europe and North America had in May held an International Ecumenical Consultation on Peace in East Asia, in Seoul.
At a conference in Kuala Lumpur on 28 July, North Korea turned down appeals to join talks on its nuclear and missile programmes, saying the United States should drop financial sanctions before any talks could ensue. The six-party talks were aimed at getting North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons programme in exchange for energy aid, security guarantees and trade.
The Korean churches said: "We believe that the missile testing by North Korea contributes to the deterioration of relations between North Korea and the US, and between North Korea and Japan."
They said: "Therefore, we strongly assert that true peace in North-East Asia can not be established without normalising diplomatic relations between North Korea and the US, and between North Korea and Japan."
On 23 July, three Korean War veterans and a United Methodist bishop stationed in Korea in the 1950s worshipped together during a World Methodist Conference service at Imjingak, in the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea. The United Methodist Church News Service reported that the Rev. Seung Soon Yang, a retired Korean Methodist clergyman who served for during the Korean War, was one of a few survivors from the Mt Paikma battle, where he was injured. "The cease-fire had been signed 53 years ago, yet the war never stopped in my heart," Yang said.
In the Korean War, South Korea and a US-led United Nations force fought against North Koreans backed by Chinese ground troops and aided by the Soviets. It began in 1950 and came to a halt in an armistice signed at Panmunjom on 27 July 1953. A formal cease-fire has yet to be signed.
(c) Ecumenical News International
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