On Thursday, South Korean President Moon Jae-in announced that the U.S. has agreed to not take any military action against the rogue communist state of North Korea without approval from Seoul — although it is not entirely clear whether the current agreement actually requires the United States to obtain Seoul’s approval before launching an attack.
“I say this with confidence: There will be no war on the Korean Peninsula ever again,” Moon told reporters at the Presidential Blue House, according to the Washington Post.
“We can’t afford to lose all that we’ve built from the ashes of the Korean War. I will prevent another war at all cost,” Moon said.
Moon said that President Donald Trump agreed to consult South Korea before taking any military action.
Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that there was “no question” that the United States will discuss any military plans with South Korea before acting.
“South Korea is an ally and everything we do in the region is in the context of our alliance,” Dunford said.
According to the defense agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, both nations must first consult with one another before military action can take place on the Korean Peninsula. However, neither must adhere to their ally’s wishes, and may proceed with an attack if that country chooses.
Dunford is currently in China, meeting with Chinese Communist Party President Xi Jinping. During the trip, he met with Fan Changlong, a vice chairman of China’s Central Military Commission, and discussed military issues on the Korean Peninsula.
“China insists that consultation through dialogue is the only effective way to solve the problems on the peninsula, and military means cannot be an option,” Fan said during his meeting with Dunford, according to the Post. “At the moment, all parties concerned should maintain restraint, and avoid words and actions that would intensify the tension of the situation on the Korean Peninsula.”
China attempted to de-escalate tensions through various means as threats and shows of strength were exchanged between North Korea and the U.S. over the previous weeks. This included participating in sanctions against North Korea, which Beijing considered a huge concession toward Washington.
Their efforts culminated last week when China told Pyongyang that should it strike the U.S. first, it would sit back and allow Washington to destroy North Korea. Simultaneously, China told Washington it would intervene on North Korea’s behalf if the U.S. struck first.
On Tuesday, North Korea backed down from its threat of attacking the U.S. territory of Guam, signaling a possible lull in the conflict. Trump called Pyongyang’s decision to call off the attack “very wise.”
South Korea’s ultimate goal with North Korea is peace. In July, South Korea’s Unification Ministry offered to open peace talks between their respective military leaders. The offer has so far gone ignored by North Korea. In July, the offer was derided by North Korea’s state-run media as a hypocritical gesture for offering peace with one hand, and threatening war with the other.