1Didn't the Korean War never come to end, and could that figure in Congress? 2) US treaties with SK?

Two part query, but basically centering on coming to the aid of an ally, at extreme risk–

  1. the first part, more legalistic than legal: isn’t the Korean War under Truman still only in ceasefire, and could that figure in Congressional or Executive proceedings?

  2. the second, more legal than legalistic: what actual treaties, letters of understanding (I believe there are also secret ones in the Executive branch, but that must remain hypothetical) between the US and South Korea are out there?

And/or, which treaties/documents cover the more general geographic/political region (“Pan-Asian?”) in which SK is a member?
Treaties per se are by definition approved by the House, as Obama found to his dismay with the Iran nuclear non-treaty treaty, but I’m thinking other instruments of intent come out of Executive/State Dept. with serious binding force.

And, although not GQ, but historical anecdotes are welcome, undertaking (nuclear) war over a “mutual” defense treaty will be heavy going, but it helps if such paperwork does exist.

  • I think I heard about such a secret document devoutly to be wished by Israel and at one point dangled before them in exchange for something or other

Technically it’s an armistice agreement.

“Figure” how? What exactly are you thinking of?

A lot. The State Department maintains a list of treaties in force which is updated annually.

Here (PDF) is the 2017 list. Bilateral treaties with Korea begin on page 246 and there are six pages of them.

A lot. I suggest that you figure out what specific thing you are interested in and then formulate a question that can actually be answered in a reasonable way.

The Senate.

Executive agreements can be created by the President alone on matters solely within executive authority. Executive-congressional agreements can be created by the President and Congress through ordinary legislation instead of the Senate’s two-thirds treaty-ratification procedure.


The Korean War ended with the Korean Armistice Agreement, which was signed by U.S. Army Lieutenant General William Harrison, Jr. and North Korean General Nam Il. The Armistice Agreement was more than just a cease fire. It established the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea and set up provisions for the repatriation of prisoners of war.

It is a bit odd that there is no formal peace agreement, just this armistice. Even Vietnam ended in a formal peace agreement. That said, no one on either side really believes that the Korean war is still ongoing, and this is not a factor of any sort in current Congressional or Executive actions. If the current president wants to go to war with North Korea, he needs to get the usual approvals from Congress.

ETA: Admittedly, it gets more complicated if North and South Korea go to war against each other again, or if North Korea attacks another US ally like Japan.

The suggestion that Berwick-on-Tweed, unmentioned in the Crimean War Peace Treaty, remained at war with Czarist Russia unnoticed, appears to be a myth.
The Friends of Berwick and District Museum and Archives
With comparative pictures of the two places supreme citadels,

IIRC, the US wasn’t the primary belligerent in the war anyway - the United Nations Command was, which just so happened to be primarily composed of US forces.

This is my understanding–that it was never a “US vs. North Korea” conflict; it was more a “UN vs. North Korea” conflict. The Wikipedia page on the Korean War lists 16 members of the western world who took part, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Turkey, and New Zealand, among others.

At any rate, the US did contribute the lion’s share of troops and materiel (and continues to do so); but ultimately, the Korean War was a UN action. Which raises an interesting question: can the US take unilateral action, without the sanction of the UN?

Can? Of course. Should? Well, probably not. But that might not stop the people that would make such a decision.

I assume that the “Congressional or Executive proceedings” you’re referring to is a reference to the fact that only Congress can declare war? In that case, it’s irrelevant that the Korean War never ended, because at the same level of technicality, it never started, either: Congress never passed a Declaration of War against North Korea.

Back in the 1960s before the slew of “Presidential” wars, when Congress’ power to declare war was still taken seriously, it was stated in some quarters that the war was not a real war but a “police action”.

Also, my understanding is that the SK armed forces are still under US command, which I suppose is formally a UN command.

Not exactly. The majority of SK active forces are under the operational control of Combined Forces Command. CFC is a binational (ROK/US) command not UN. The commander CFC is always US with the deputy being a South Korean General. The headquarters itself is mixed nationality. OPCON is also not full command authority. A US General has significant authority over most ROK forces.

Fleshing out the above: USFK Combined Forces Command

A long discussion about what operational control is and isn’t in U.S. doctrine for those that haven’t had to negotiate let alone understand the various doctrinal methods of control: Understanding OPCON | Article | The United States Army

Just to add to DinoR’s comment, the CFC is not formally a UN command. It replaced the UN command in the 1970’s.

Certainly practically speaking the US and ROK have no obligation to go to the UN to start military action v North Korea, especially if NK acts first. Legalistically…but international legalities aren’t the same as ones under a sovereign entity.

The more relevant issue is the ROK’s say in a US military action against DRPK the ROK govt doesn’t agree with. The other day the ROK Pres was quoted saying military action ‘absolutely’ requires ROK approval. But again practically say NK fired missiles at Guam the ROK wouldn’t really have a veto over a US military retaliation against NK. What it really means is telling the US it could damage the alliance with a preemptive strike v NK or overreacting retaliation. There was a good piece on this by Holman Jenkins in WSJ the other day, ‘how the US could switch places with NK’ as in becoming the pariah in northeast Asia if it was viewed as a starting a war with NK or overreacting (say big nuclear fall out clouds drifting around, or 100k’s Koreans dead even if all in the North, South Koreans still view North Koreans as Koreans individually).

But it’s not really a matter of legalities. Same goes for US domestic aspect. Truman committed the US to the Korean War after even less consultation with Congress than later Presidents in the ‘post declaration’ period since have gotten for their undeclared wars. It’s about the worst example to give in arguing that Presidents can’t legally do almost whatever they like in starting military actions.