World Council of Churches asks for suspension of North Korea sanctions

(Photo: Peter Prove / WCC)WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and president of the Republic of Korea, Moon Jae-in on May 30, 2017 in Seoul.

Citing "escalating confrontation and heightened risks of catastrophic conflict" on the Korean peninsula, the World Council of Churches has called for the lifting of sanctions against North Korea.

The council's executive committee in a statement on June 11 urged that "a paradigm shift in approaches to the resolution of the geopolitical challenges of the region is urgently needed."

The call comes at a time when UN sanctions have been increased on North Korea for its campaign of firing missiles that heighten tensions with its neighbor South Korea and Japan.

North Korea says it is "not far away" from test-firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could strike the United States, The Hill reported on the same days as the WCC statement.

"U.S. President Donald Trump has said the world will never see North Korea reach the final stage of developing nuclear weapons that could reach the U.S.," the State-run (North) Korean Central News Agency said, citing a commentary in the Rodong Sinmun newspaper, according to Bloomberg News.

In its statement, the WCC's executive committee offered a range of bold ideas to further "the ecumenical movement's support for and engagement in new initiatives for dialogue and peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula."

These include a freeze on the annual joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises, halting further missile or nuclear weapons tests by North Korea, suspension of international sanctions against North Korea.

The statement referred to the recent meeting of the WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, with newly-elected South Korean President Moon Jae-in in Seoul on 30 May 2017, "to offer the ecumenical movement's support for and engagement in new initiatives for dialogue and peaceful coexistence on the Korean peninsula."

They also include ecumenical efforts toward a peace treaty to replace the armistice agreement of 1953, continued efforts to address ongoing issues of human rights, and stepped up support for encounter, exchange, and dialogue among Christians North and South.

The 25-member WCC's executive committee that meets every six months gathered in Bossey, Switzerland, near Geneva, addressing a range of programmatic and public issues.

It meets every six months to guide the work of the council, which represents 560 million Christians worldwide, between biennial gatherings of the WCC central committee, the main governing body.

In its statement the WCC, "stresses the importance of the governments of both South and North Korea not obstructing but enabling encounter, exchange and dialogue between North and South Korean Christians, in the interests both of inter-church relations and of people-to-people encounter to help reduce tensions and as a contribution to opening new windows for dialogue."

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)A monument to the tens of thousands of United Nations troops who died in the Korean War in Busan, South Korea on November 3, 2013.
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