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Envoys discuss post-summit challenges at Jeju Forum

June 29,2018
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Diplomats speak at the 2018 Jeju Forum’s Ambassadors’ Roundtable on the theme of “Diplomacy in Building a Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula” at the ICC Jeju on Thursday. From left: Kim Young-hie, a former JoongAng Ilbo senior columnist, Ambassador of Canada Eric Walsh, Ambassador of France Fabien Penone, South Korean Vice Foreign Minister Cho Hyun, Ambassador of Japan Yasumasa Nagamine, Ambassador of the European Union Michael Reiterer, and Marc Knapper, acting ambassador of the United States. [KIM KYOUNG-ROK]
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SEOGWIPO, Jeju - Joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States can resume if North Korea doesn’t keep its promises, said Marc Knapper, acting ambassador of the United States to Seoul, in a panel discussion in Jeju on Thursday.

“This suspension is not irreversible,” said Knapper, speaking at the 13th Jeju Forum for Peace and Prosperity’s annual Ambassadors’ Roundtable, on the joint South Korea-U.S. drills that were suspended following the Singapore summit earlier this month.

“Should the circumstances change, should we have cause to believe that we are not making the kind of progress we hope to see with North Korea, we can easily restart these exercises. But I think we are willing to give the North a chance, we are giving the North a chance and we want to see where this goes.”

He added that Washington will “test” the North’s commitment to denuclearization in the coming weeks, without being specific.

U.S. President Donald Trump, following the historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12 in Singapore, announced in a press conference a suspension of military drills, calling them expensive and provocative to the North. The Pentagon last week announced the suspension of major military exercises.

Following the inter-Korean, North Korea-China and North Korea-U.S. summits, a group of six diplomats discussed the theme of this year’s roundtable, “Diplomacy in Building a Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula,” at the International Convention Center Jeju.

The panelists included four other top envoys to Seoul: Ambassador of Canada Eric Walsh, Ambassador of France Fabien Penone, Ambassador of Japan Yasumasa Nagamine, and Ambassador of the European Union Michael Reiterer, as well as South Korean Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Hyun.

“Achieving complete denuclearization and establishing permanent peace cannot be preceded by any other issues,” said Cho in his keynote address, noting his optimism for the future of such a process.

He called a lasting sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula a “common goal not only for this region but all around the world.”

The 90-minute session was moderated by Kim Young-hie, a former JoongAng Ilbo editor-at-large and a senior columnist for security and foreign affairs, and was hosted by the Jeju Peace Institute and the Korea JoongAng Daily.

“We are very encouraged by the steps taken by North Korea this year, particularly the reaffirmed commitment to complete denuclearization made both at Panmunjom and again in Singapore, and President Moon Jae-in’s role has been key in that process,” said Walsh. But he also raised concerns about Pyongyang’s systematic abuse of human rights, along with an actual timeline for denuclearization of the North.

Walsh added, “A sustainable peace and stability on the peninsula without addressing human rights, I personally think, will be difficult.”

Penone called the Singapore summit “a significant step” and “a starting point for a process,” which must lead to the complete, irreversible, verifiable denuclearization, or CVID, of North Korea.

“The recent actions undertaken by the North Korean regime are going in the right direction - the suspension of nuclear and ballistic missile test as well as the closure of the Punggye-ri facilities, even if we wish this closure had been verified by experts,” said Penone. “It can be seen a prelude for the CVID process, but we need a precise road map and a calendar and we also need to tackle the missile and chemical weapons issues.”

Nagamine lauded the South Korean government for “building a bridge between the United States and the DPRK,” but in turn noted that “sanctions should only be lifted when it is confirmed that North Korea’s nuclear [weapons] is not a problem anymore." DPRK is the acronym for North Korea’s official name.

Reiterer recalled thinking in 2000, when he was in Korea during the peak of President Kim Dae-jung’s engagement with the North, “I hope this time, the optimism will translate into reality and become sustainable. I think the signs are more promising than we had, but on the other hand I think it is very clear that we are at the beginning of a process.”

The panelists were in consensus that North Korea’s commitment to “complete denuclearization,” as written in the Singapore joint statement of June 12, could be understood as CVID.

Cho called CVID “technical jargon,” adding that the “Singapore statement specifically mentions complete denuclearization, which includes the concept of CVID. So, in due course, the verification issue will come. That’s very self-explanatory.”

Knapper agreed with Cho and, citing the text of the Singapore statement, said, “The idea of complete denuclearization has enshrined within it the idea that it has to be verifiable and irreversible.”

“Rather than worry about semantics and certain words, we have to see actions, concrete actions,” said Knapper. “Over the next weeks and months, we are going to test the North’s commitment to see if they truly are prepared to take the steps enshrined in these two very important documents from Singapore and from Panmunjom.”

When asked about the prospect of Japan normalizing relations with North Korea, Nagamine recalled the Japan-North Korea declaration of 2002 “which detailed economic assistance to North Korea after normalization.” He called for the resolution of the nuclear, missile and abduction of Japanese nationals issues for Tokyo to be able to “enter serious for the normalization process,” but added that “to some extent, it’s a tactical issue which agenda is to be presented at what stage.”

He added, “Certainly we are ready to get into the process of normalization once these three issues are resolved.”

Reiterer said, “The European Union, as a strong supporter of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime, including the roles of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), remains ready to facilitate and support the follow-on negotiations and other steps aimed at building confidence and ensuring long-lasting peace, security and prosperity on a Korean Peninsula free of nuclear weapons.”

While sanctions are still implemented, Cho called for a need to “prepare for the next phase” and a “coexisting phase of North Korea’s full implementation of denuclearization process and beginning of some lifting of sanctions.”

Knapper said, “We foresee a future in which there is trade and assistance and technical aid and investment - all these things, positive things, will accrue once we are able to achieve complete denuclearization of North Korea. Once we have complete denuclearization, we envision lifting sanctions, improving relations, we envision really a brighter and positive future for the North.”

BY SARAH KIM, ESTHER CHUNG [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]