The Korean Armistice and the Islands
A U. S. Army cartoon from the Korean War depicts Soldiers' gripes about the weather in Korea that they were forced to endure, particularly during the winter of 1950 (Photo: US Army MHI)  



Colonel Moo Bong Ryoo
South Korean Army

USAWC Class of 2009

The views expressed in the document are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Army War College, the U.S. Department of the Army, the South Korean Army, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, or the U.S. or R.O.K. Governments.



The Korean War Armistice Agreement (KWAA) was signed on 27 July 1953 between the military commanders of the United Nations Command, the Chinese People's Volunteer Army, and the Korean People's Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Under the provisions of the KWAA, five Northwest Islands are specifically designated to remain under the control of the Commander-in-Chief, UNC.

Because of these five islands' unique strategic location, the surrounding area has become one of the primary potential sources of conflict between the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the DPRK.

Indeed, there have been violent naval engagements between the two Koreas near those islands on 15 June 1999 and 29 June 2002. In March 2010 a South Korean naval vessel exploded and sank in the vicinity; subsequent ROK and US investigations determined the likely cause was a warhead manufactured by the DPRK. Most recently, on 23 November 2010, North Korea bombarded one of the islands with long-range artillery.

Although this AY-09 USAWC International Fellow Resident Student paper was written prior to the two latest incidents, it remains valuable for its focus on four key strategic issues still relevant today:
----why the UNC decided to retain those island groups among the many islands it held north of the military demarcation line prior to the Armistice Agreement;
----the strategic consequence of the negotiation and establishment of the Northern Limit Line;
----the lessons we can learn from the negotiations;and
---- recommendations for policy makers.

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This page last updated on 23 December 2010.

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