A group of international personalities calling for an end to nuclear testing visited the inter-Korean border Friday to face the only country that has tested nuclear weapons this century -- North Korea.
The Group of Eminent Persons for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty was launched in 2013 to promote the treaty's entry into force. Some its members, including Hans Blix, former chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency; Angela Kane, former U.N. High Representative for Disarmament Affairs; and former British Defense Secretary Des Browne, were in Seoul this week for their third meeting since the group's establishment.
Escorted by South Korean soldiers, a small group of them toured the Joint Security Area inside the 4-kilometer-wide Demilitarized Zone that cuts across the Korean Peninsula.
Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, noted the coincidence in the timing of their visit.
"My message to North Korea is a message of peace because we are today on the 65th anniversary of the breakout of the Korean War," he told reporters at the truce village of Panmunjom inside the JSA.
"I think it's symbolic we're bringing a group of eminent persons on this particular day of the history of both Koreas. It's a clear message that we want peace, we want them to observe peace, we want
them as well to observe the moratorium on nuclear testing and we want to engage in a dialogue with them to sign and or ratify the CTBT."
The Korean War broke out on June 25, 1950, and ended in an armistice agreement signed in Panmunjom on July 27, 1953.
Just meters away, on the North Korean side of the Military Demarcation Line, a North Korean soldier stood on the lookout as the group took photos with South Korean soldiers and learned the history of Panmunjom.
All visitors were strictly forbidden from waving at any North Korean soldiers they may come across for fear it could be interpreted as an insult or provocation.
Earlier in the day in Seoul, the GEM adopted the "Seoul Declaration," calling for an end to nuclear testing.
The CTBT was opened for signature in 1996, but it has yet to come into force because eight nations with nuclear capabilities, including North Korea, Iran and the U.S., have yet to sign or ratify the deal.
"In order to avoid further endangering peace in Northeast Asia, the DPRK is urged to sign and ratify the Treaty and refrain from undertaking any further tests," read the declaration issued at the end of the GEM's two-day meeting here.
DPRK is the acronym of North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
North Korea has conducted three nuclear tests -- in 2006, 2009 and 2013.
"Stopping nuclear testing would increase confidence in the world, increase confidence that nuclear disarmament is finally happening," Kane said at the meeting's closing.
All states that have not signed or ratified the treaty should do so without delay, the declaration noted, saying, "whatever benefit any of them may perceive in not being legally bound by the Treaty, is greatly outweighed by the risk that other states could use the absence of a legally-binding test-ban to undertake a test." (Yonhap)