SINGAPORE: The potential success of the upcoming United States-North Korea summit in Singapore is a “precious opportunity” for peace and prosperity in the world, South Korea Defence Minister Song Young-moo said on Saturday (Jun 2).
“If the upcoming summit is a success, then we will have a precious opportunity for peace and prosperity in Asia-Pacific and the world,” he said.
Mr Song was speaking at the annual Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore hours after US President Donald Trump confirmed that the historic summit was back on.
Mr Trump had announced this following a meeting with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s right-hand man at the White House on Friday, only a week after he abruptly cancelled the summit in a sharply worded letter.
Nevertheless, Mr Song said the international community had high praise for Mr Trump’s effort in organising the summit, as he hoped for a positive outcome from the meeting scheduled for Jun 12.
“I hope President Trump and Chairman Kim come to a historical agreement for complete denuclearisation and complete peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he said. “On multiple occasions, Chairman Kim has declared a desire for complete denuclearisation, and President Trump to end hostilities and achieve economic cooperation.”
Mr Song compared the US-North Korea meeting to the Malta Summit in 1989, which marked an end to the Cold War between US and the former Soviet Union. “This is a rare opportunity and we must be successful this time,” he said.
The defence chief acknowledged that international efforts to achieve denuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula had failed before, as he pledged to spare no effort and learn from past mistakes.
“To achieve more tangible results, what we need is an honest dialogue to find a rational solution between the leaders of the US and North Korea,” he added.
Beyond that, the success of the summit is also dependent on “consistent support” from the international community, Mr Song said. “We urge them to stand united in our diplomatic efforts to ensure North Korea advances on the path of denuclearisation.”
However, Japan’s Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera took a far more cautious approach to the summit, as he warned of Pyongyang’s history of reneging on promises.
“In light of how North Korea behaved in the past, it’s important not to reward North Korea solely for having dialogue,” he told delegates after Mr Song’s speech. “The only way for peace is ensuring they take concrete action.”
To that end, Mr Onodera said the international community must continue to maintain “maximum pressure” on North Korea to ensure it dismantles all weapons of mass destruction, repeating a phrase Mr Trump used after initially cancelling the summit.
These weapons include all ranges of ballistic missiles, chemical and biological weapons, Mr Onodera added, highlighting how Pyongyang’s missile tests have often put Japan under threat.
And even if North Korea shows it is taking concrete steps to denuclearise, Mr Onodera said the international community must take subsequent inspections and verifications seriously. “Defence authorities need to remain wary,” he stated.
A NEW ERA
While Mr Song admitted that Pyongyang has fooled Seoul before, he said continued suspicion means “we will never come to an agreement”.
“Our new leaders are looking to open a new era,” he said in a question-and-answer session afterwards. “Please understand that.”
Mr Song said Seoul dreams of a peaceful Korean Peninsula without war, noting that a nuclearised peninsula is a “grave and pressing concern” for the regional security environment.
“We ask for close cooperation from the international community to realise this dream,” he added. “We know the path will not be an easy one, but we just want to make full use of this precious opportunity to achieve our outcome.”