Four central European countries "strongly support" the denuclearization of North Korea as stability on the divided Korean Peninsula will help enhance their ties with South Korea, and urged the reclusive nation to be open to the outside world, their high-ranking diplomats have said.
The so-called "Visegrad Group" member countries also want to further strengthen cooperation with Seoul and broaden the scope of ties in various fields, they said.
The Visegrad Group, established in 1991, is an alliance of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, which is aimed at promoting cooperation with each other within the framework of the European Union (EU).
"We are interested in stability in Northeast Asia. We are interested in the denuclearization of the (Korean) Peninsula because we believe that political stability creates even more chances for economic cooperation," Szabolcs Takacs, political director at Hungary's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency.
Takacs and three other diplomats visited Seoul last week to hold the first-ever high-level talks with their counterpart, Lee Kyung-soo, deputy foreign minister on political affairs. North Korea's nuclear weapons program was known as one of the main agenda items for the meeting.
North Korea's nuclear weapons program is a nagging threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Pyongyang has threatened to conduct its fourth nuclear test, raising tension in the Northeast Asian region.
Seoul's efforts to increase dialogue channels with the four central European countries come as South Korea has been able to win support in addressing North Korea's nuclear issues, as well as to draw lessons about the unification process based on their experiences of transitioning from socialism.
"As members of the EU, we strongly support denuclearizatinon of the Korean Peninsula. It is important," said Lubomir Rehak, political director at the Slovak Republic's foreign ministry.
The Visegrad countries also called on Pyongyang to change itself and be open to the outside world, saying that they can provide support to the North by explaining what they learned from changing their economic systems in the past.
"In fact, we think that it is in the interest of people in the DPRK to become more open to the international community, and we are ready to support these activities," noted Rehak. The DPRK refers to the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, the North's full name.
In particular, the Czech Republic and Poland maintain diplomatic relations with North Korea. When the armistice treaty ending the 1950-53 Korean War was signed, Poland and Czechoslovakia were nominated by North Korea and China to monitor the implementation of the truce treaty as part of the four-nation Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission (NNSC).
Over three decades later, Pyongyang kicked Poland out of the NNSC on the apparent belief that it was no longer friendly to the communist country. Czechoslovakia was also expelled when it split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993.
Poland has been trying to continue its monitoring mission by sending its representatives to several commission meetings in South Korea each year.
"We believe that the symbolism of our presence in this context is quite important," said Jaroslaw Bratkiewicz, political director at Poland's foreign ministry.
As for speculation that the Czech may come back to the commission, Vaclav Balek, political director from the country's foreign ministry, declined to comment.
When it comes to South Korea's unification initiative, the Polish official said that trust-building measures unveiled by South Korean President Park Geun-hye are seen as "commendable" and the Visegrad countries are "heavily supportive" of those ideas.
President Park has stressed her resolve to mend inter-Korean ties through the so-called Korean Peninsula trust process, which calls for expanding cross-border exchanges via trust-building measures.
South Korea and the four central European countries are seeking to hold a foreign ministers' meeting next month in an effort to upgrade the level of their consultative channel.
They declined to elaborate on the details of a possible meeting but added that what they agreed on last week was that the group and South Korea are to boost cooperation at different levels.
"What's expected from this cooperation mechanism is to further enhance, deepen and widen political, economic, social, cultural and scientific ties between us and the Republic of Korea," said Takacs from Hungary. (Yonhap)