President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday reiterated his policy of Seoul taking the lead in resolving North Korean issues and stressed the roles of the foreign and unification ministries in the two-track approach to inter-Korean issues.
Speaking at a briefing of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Unification, Moon said that South Korea is facing grievous diplomatic challenges and that Seoul must take the lead, and approach such issues from the point of view of national interests.
“(North Korea) must be approached more proactively with the firm South Korea-US alliance and through diplomatic cooperation with China, Japan and Russia,” Moon said.
Saying that Seoul must play the lead role in ensuring peace on the peninsula, Moon also stressed the need to expand the scope of diplomacy to strengthen ties with nations other than the “big four” -- China, Japan, Russia and the US.
Moon also urged the Foreign Ministry to reinforce discipline within its ranks, referring to recent scandals involving South Korean diplomats.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha laid out the ministry’s plans to pressure Pyongyang to engage in denuclearization talks.
In line with the Moon administration’s repeated emphasis on the South Korea-US alliance, Kang said that the ministry would work closely with Washington to establish conditions for talks.
While Moon hopes to engage North Korea, he has stated on numerous occasions that the precondition for dialogue is Pyongyang halting its nuclear program.
At the briefing, Kang also said that the ministry will strengthen communication with China and Russia to lead the two traditional allies of Pyongyang to play constructive roles in bringing about denuclearization.
Aside from North Korea-related issues, the Foreign Ministry revealed plans to reinforce Seoul’s diplomatic operations and to boost Seoul’s ability to ensure the safety of South Koreans abroad.
As part of the plans, the ministry will establish a center dedicated to dealing with issues concerning the safety of overseas Koreans, and to create a comprehensive system for handling relevant incidents that occur outside the country.
Regarding the Ministry of Unification, Moon said that the ministry must play a proactive role in inter-Korean relations, ruling out any possibility of the ministry being dissolved.
“The Unification Ministry has an immense role in improving inter-Korean relations and putting to action inter-Korean economic plans,” Moon said, adding that the ministry will have a clear voice in related matters unlike in the past two administrations.
For its part, the Ministry of Unification put forward resuming inter-Korean talks and redefining inter-Korean relations, and achieving public consensus on the administration’s North Korean policies as the ministry’s two core tasks.
At the briefing, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said that the ministry’s operations would follow the directions of the president’s “Berlin Initiative.”
During his visit to Germany in early July, Moon announced the initiative under which Seoul would pursue Pyongyang’s denuclearization with a security guarantee, and economic and diplomatic incentives, while seeking a peace treaty and dismissing the prospect of forced unification.
Pyongyang, however, has dismissed Moon’s ideas and ignored Seoul’s calls for talks, while continuing to provoke the US in an increasingly detailed and threatening manner.
Regardless of Pyongyang’s actions, Cho said that the ministry would continue trying to engage North Korea and seek ways to expand civilian exchanges within the boundaries of international sanctions. As part of the plans, the ministry will seek to bring North Korea to the 2018 Pyongchang winter Olympic Games.
Within South Korea, the ministry plans to improve support given to North Korean defectors and to South Korean companies affected by the shutdown of the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial park.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)