South Korea’s Vice-Minister of Unification believes that North Korea, despite its conciliatory rhetoric, has not shown any signs of changing its fundamental position on nuclear weapons, and that the international community must therefore be vigilant regarding Pyongyang’s ambitions.
Vice-Minister Hong Yang Ho was speaking at “A seminar for advancing unification policy: now is the time for unification,” sponsored by the Hansun Foundation for Freedom and Prosperity on the 5th. Hong explained his concerns in more detail; that while North Korea has been showing signs of change in the latter half of this year, such as by being willing to engage in dialogue, it has been “difficult to detect any shift in the North’s position on the nuclear issue.”
“Merely two days ago, they announced they had reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods,” Hong reminded the audience, “The North has not stopped posing a nuclear threat to the international community.”
He also expressed his wariness, noting, “North Korea has attached complex conditions to its return to the Six-Party Talks, resulting in increased skepticism in the international community as to the sincerity of its proposal. We have experienced such a negotiating strategy from the North time and time again since its first nuclear threat in 1993.”
Hong added, “Now, the South Korean government and the international community are observing the North very carefully, so that it cannot be repeated.”
Commenting on the “Grand Bargain,” which was proposed by the Lee Myung Bak administration as a prescription for the nuclear issue, Hong explained, “It is a comprehensive and fundamental plan for settlement which sets nuclear abandonment as the ultimate goal and attempts to resolve it under the larger framework of North Korean issues.”
Hong then emphasized, “Although North Korea continues to claim that the nuclear issue is a U.S.-North Korean one, the nuclear issue really concerns South Korea’s survival and is thus a security issue of the utmost importance. Discussing the issue of South Korea’s survival through inter-Korean dialogue is only natural, so the North should step forward and engage in genuine dialogue with us.”
Minister Hong concluded with his belief that unification on the Korean peninsula should go beyond the simple restoration of the nation; instead it should prepare the stepping stones for Korea to become a top-ranked country in the world. To achieve this, he said, “right unification” which upholds the universal human values and public order of freedom, human dignity, democracy and the market economy is needed.