Moon ratifies Pyongyang Declaration and CMA in cabinet meeting

Posted on : 2018-10-24 16:34 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Conservative opposition accuses president of abusing power
South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a Blue House cabinet meeting on Oct. 23. (Blue House photo pool)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a Blue House cabinet meeting on Oct. 23. (Blue House photo pool)

On Oct. 23, the Blue House announced that South Korean President Moon Jae-in ratified the Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain (also called the Comprehensive Military Agreement, or CMA); both agreements were reached during the Pyongyang summit in September.

The Pyongyang Declaration will be printed in the government gazette within a few days, while the CMA is supposed to be printed after sharing the text with North Korea. From the moment the two inter-Korean summit agreements are printed in the government gazette, they will become legally binding.

During his opening remarks to the cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, Moon said, “The Pyongyang Joint Declaration and the Agreement on the Implementation of the Historic Panmunjom Declaration in the Military Domain will serve to promote and facilitate the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by furthering inter-Korean relations and easing military tensions. They not only represent the path to protecting the lives and safety of the South Korean people but will also aid our economy by eliminating risk factors on the Korean Peninsula.”

Moon’s ratification of the two agreements on Tuesday is believed to reflect his determination to move forward as quickly as possible in doing out what can be done to develop inter-Korean relations on the South Korean government’s prerogative amid the continuing sanctions on North Korea by the US and the international community.

When asked about the Blue House’s decision to ratify the Pyongyang Declaration while the motion to ratify the preceding Apr. 27 Panmunjom Declaration is still pending in the National Assembly, Blue House spokesperson Kim Eui-kyum said, “This [declaration] does not fall under the regulations of the North Korean Relations Development Act, which state that the National Assembly’s approval must be sought when a fiscal burden or legislation are necessary.”

“Even while the motion to ratify the agreement from the inter-Korean prime ministers’ meeting was still pending in the National Assembly in 2007, subsequent agreements reached by the two sides’ defense ministers, the Inter-Korean Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation and the Committee for Promoting Peaceful Cooperation in the West Sea were ratified after being approved in a cabinet meeting,” Kim explained.

The government’s explanation is that, since it believes conservative opposition parties are refusing to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration for “political reasons,” the government has no choice but to ratify the Pyongyang Declaration and the CMA in order to promote North Korea’s denuclearization and the development of inter-Korean relations.

Opposition parties claim Panmunjom Declaration must be ratified first

But there is likely to be continuing procedural controversy about Moon’s ratification of the Pyongyang Declaration before the preceding Panmunjom Declaration.

“The fact that President Moon says the Panmunjom Declaration needs the approval of the National Assembly and that the Pyongyang Declaration and the Comprehensive Military Agreement don’t need its approval even though they represent the gist of the Panmunjom Declaration is evidence of his habitual high-handed abuse of power,” Liberty Korea Party Floor Leader Kim Sung-tae said during a meeting with reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s bizarre for the Comprehensive Military Agreement to be ratified while the Panmunjom Declaration has yet to be ratified by the National Assembly, considering that the former is effectively the child of the latter. In order to follow the correct order, [President Moon] should either wait until the Panmunjom Declaration has been ratified by the National Assembly or first withdraw the motion to ratify [the Panmunjom Declaration], if it in fact doesn’t require [the National Assembly’s] ratification as the Bareunmirae Party argues, and ratify that before ratifying the Comprehensive Military Agreement,” said Kim Gwan-yeong, floor leader of the Bareunmirae Party, during a telephone call with the Hankyoreh on Tuesday.

Experts on inter-Korean relations and foreign policy offered conflicting views. “The president’s ratification of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration presumes that the Panmunjom Declaration has received the approval and ratification of the National Assembly. If the Panmunjom Declaration fails to receive the National Assembly’s approval, it will also be impractical to move forward with [the Pyongyang Joint Declaration],” one expert said.

According to this interpretation, if the National Assembly votes down the motion to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration, the government would only be able to implement those sections of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration that are unrelated to the content of the Panmunjom Declaration.

Another expert offered an alternative viewpoint: “Under normal circumstances, the problem is caused when the government refuses to submit agreements to the National Assembly for ratification, but in this case [the Panmunjom Declaration], the problem is that the government has sought ratification in the National Assembly but [the opposition parties] are refusing to do so.”

By Kim Bo-hyeop, Seong Yeon-cheol, Kim Ji-eun and Song Gyung-hwa, staff reporters

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