Korea's new journey towards a nuclear-free and peaceful peninsula: Ambassador Seung-bae Yeo reviews the outcome of the President Moon-Chairman Kim summits.

AuthorYeo, Seung-bae
PositionSouth Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korea Chairman Kim Jong-Un

This year marks the 68th anniversary of the Korean War's outbreak on 25 June 1950. From the ashes of war, the Republic of Korea (referred to as 'Korea' hereafter) has struggled for economic and political development. In what is widely recognised as a remarkable achievement in world history, Korea has become the only country among those regaining independence after the Second World War that successfully transferred from being an aid recipient to becoming a donor. It has also drawn applause from the world by hosting major international sports events, including two Olympics, the first in the summer of 1988 and the second in February this year, as well as the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Koreans are still suffering, however, from confrontational division initiated by Cold War rivalry. This unchanged situation has been made worse in recent years due to North Korea's continued nuclear and ballistic missile development. Responding to the challenge of division and threats of war, the new Korean administration led by President Moon Jae-in, on taking office in May 2017, set denuclearisation and sustainable peace as the priority security agenda. In recent months, Korea has taken a leading role in new developments on and around the Korean peninsula and we have been watching unprecedented progress toward peace.

Presidential vision

Since his inauguration in May 2017, President Moon Jae-in has been consistent that the North Korean nuclear issue should be resolved in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. President Moon presented his vision for a peaceful, nuclear-free Korean peninsula, conceived well before his election, in an address at the Koerber Foundation in Berlin. He outlined a comprehensive approach to seek denuclearisation of North Korea along with permanent peace on the Korean peninsula to formally end the Korean War.

President Moon's North Korea initiative is built around the '4 No's' principle:

* No hostile acts or military attacks against North Korea

* No seeking regime change

* No efforts to absorb the North

* No artificial acceleration of reunification.

This principle has guided specific offers to North Korea, such as proposing military contacts to discuss suspension of hostilities between the two Koreas and Red Cross talks for the reunion of separated families. President Moon also invited North Korea to the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, expressing his hope of making it an 'Olympics of Peace'.

Throughout the year of his inauguration, however, the tension on the Korean peninsula continued to escalate because of North Korea's relendess nuclear and missile provocations. Nevertheless, President Moon did not sway from his approach; he remains focused on peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue to build a foundation for both Koreas' prosperity. To actively promote this initiative, the Korean government has made sincere efforts to keep the window of opportunity open to diplomacy while maintaining sanctions in place.

Positive response

After months of silence, a positive response came from North Korea through Chairman Kim Jong Uns New Year address in January 2018. Chairman Kim announced that he was willing to send a North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February and that both Koreas could urgently meet to discuss the matter. This was the opportunity President Moon envisaged, with North Korea coming forward for the first time to engage in talks with the new Korean administration.

The benefit of seizing this opportunity was the thawing of inter-Korean relations, symbolised by the co-march of South and North Korean athletes into the Olympic stadium at PyeongChang under a unified Korean flag. A series of inter-Korean talks and exchange of envoys was triggered by this event, the most significant being President Moons special envoy, Director Jung Eui-yong of the Korean National Security Office, visiting Chairman Kim in Pyongyang. The North Korean leader expressed his willingness to denuclearise by saying that if the security of his regime is guaranteed, his country does not need nuclear weapons. It was on this occasion that Kim first revealed his hope for a direct dialogue with President Trump regarding denuclearisation, and vowed to neither conduct nuclear tests nor launch...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT