The new government of President Moon Jae-in has put great importance to restoring communication with North Korea, and the international community can play a significant role in restoring inter-Korean dialogue. This was emphasized during the Mabini Dialogue on “Peace and Security in the Korean Peninsula” hosted by the Foreign Service Institute and the Embassy of Republic of Korea (ROK) on 14 July 2017 at The Peninsula Manila, Makati City. The guest speaker was Mr. Ko Yunju, Deputy Director-General, North Korean Nuclear Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of ROK. This was the first time that the situation in the Korean Peninsula was tackled in the Mabini Dialogue Series.
The current situation in the Korean Peninsula following the latest ballistic missile test by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has heightened tensions and almost closed the avenues for diplomatic negotiations between the two Koreas. Kim Jong Un, who declared his intention to continue DPRK’s nuclear program, has conducted more ballistic missile and nuclear tests in the five years of his reign, compared to his father Kim Jong Il.
Mr. Ko noted that there is a well-established framework for dealing with DPRK’s continued nuclear and missile provocations. Foremost are the several UN Security Council Resolutions (e.g. 2270, 2321, 2356) imposing economic sanctions against DPRK by cutting off the country’s access to foreign markets and financing. In addition, the US, Australia, Japan, and ROK have unilaterally imposed sanctions against DPRK for violating international regimes on nuclear and missile non-proliferation.
The policy directions of the current ROK government toward the DPRK and in dealing with the missile and nuclear threats were articulated more clearly in President Moon’s speech at the Korber Foundation in Berlin on 6 July 2017, now known as the “Berlin Initiative.” The following principles guide the ROK: Pursue only peace (ROK does not wish the collapse of the Kim regime and will not seek the artificial unification of the Peninsula); Pursue denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula that guarantees the security of the North Korean regime; Work towards establishing a permanent peace regime (pursue the conclusion of a peace treaty along with complete denuclearization); Draw a new economic map on the Korean Peninsula if appropriate conditions and progress on denuclearization are met; Pursue non-political exchange and cooperation projects by separating it from the political and military situation.
To attain peace and stability in the Korean Peninsula, Mr. Ko said the DPRK should address pressing humanitarian issues in the country, particularly the separation of around 60,000 families in North Korea. The DPRK and ROK, he said, should also mutually halt all acts of hostility on the Military Demarcation Line (MDL) and restore communication through the Inter-Korean Dialogue. He added that North Korean participation in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games could be an opportunity to make it an “Olympic of Peace.”
During the open forum, the THAAD deployment issue, the role of the international community – particularly China, the US, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – in bringing the two Koreas together were discussed in more detail. The role of ASEAN, with the Philippines as Chair, was also raised, particularly in facilitating inter-Korean dialogue and putting pressure on China to bring the DPRK to the negotiating table.
The Mabini Dialogue was attended by government officials, security analysts, and members of the media.