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New FM bets on firm relations with Washington for Pyongyang’s denuclearization

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony at the foreign ministry building on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong delivers a speech during his inauguration ceremony at the foreign ministry building on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

New Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong on Tuesday voiced confidence in working together with the US on North Korea’s nuclear issue, highlighting that the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a shared goal between the two allies. 

“Achieving complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at an earliest date is a shared goal between the US and South Korea, Chung told reporters after taking office earlier in the day. “Therefore, I believe coordinating opinions (between the two countries) would be done easily.” 

Chung expressed confidence that US-Korea relations are solid, and that there would be no big problem in coordination, even if there are some discrepancies in opinions between the two. 

The new minister said he would communicate with his US counterpart, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as soon as possible. 

Former national security adviser Chung’s appointment as the country’s top diplomat is seen as President Moon Jae-in’s last ditch effort to revive the stalled inter-Korean ties amid the deadlocked US-North Korea denuclearization talks, as the president enters his final year in office. He replaced Kang Kyung-wha, the nation’s first female foreign minister and the longest-serving minister in Moon’s Cabinet.

Chung, who has played a key role in facilitating summit between US and North Korea, and between the two Koreas, stressed that denuclearizing the North is a “core task” that could no longer be delayed. 

During the inauguration ceremony earlier on the day, Chung said the complete denuclearization and achieving peace on the peninsula is not a choice but a path that must be taken, vowing to work with other partners, including China, Japan, Russia, Southeast Asian countries and the EU, to achieve that goal. 

In regards to the deepening US-China rivalry, Chung emphasized that both countries are important for South Korea. 

He explained that the alliance with the US is the “linchpin of our peace and prosperity,” while China is a “strategic cooperative partner” and its No. 1 trading partner, as well as a key partner for peace on the peninsula. He believes Seoul could play a role between the two superpowers to “establish trust” in areas where the two sides can agree, such as climate change and quarantine efforts.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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