North Korea, Russia are going backward into history, Yoon says of new defense pact

Posted on : 2024-06-26 17:17 KST Modified on : 2024-06-26 17:17 KST
The South Korean president lambasted the new partnership between Pyongyang and Moscow as “anachronistic”
President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee pledge allegiance to the flag at an event celebrating heroes of the Korean War at EXCO in Daegu on June 25, 2024, the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. (pool photo)
President Yoon Suk-yeol and first lady Kim Keon-hee pledge allegiance to the flag at an event celebrating heroes of the Korean War at EXCO in Daegu on June 25, 2024, the anniversary of the start of the Korean War. (pool photo)

President Yoon Suk-yeol criticized North Korea as making “anachronistic moves that run counter to the progress of history” at a ceremony commemorating the outbreak of the Korean War on Tuesday. The president went on to say he would “steadfastly protect freedom and peace in our country on the basis of the South Korea-US alliance, which has only grown stronger.” 

In response to mounting tensions on the Korean Peninsula following the restoration of an alliance-level relationship between Pyongyang and Moscow, Yoon reiterated his administration’s intention to meet might with might.  
At an event held at the Daegu Exhibition and Convention Center to commemorate the 74th anniversary of the Korean War, Yoon said, “North Korea insists on a path of regression and remains the last frozen ground on the planet, while South Korea has been on the course of freedom and prosperity.”
He took a direct jab at North Korean leader Kim Jong-un by saying that Kim has “turned a blind eye to the destitute lives of his people, brutally suppressed the human rights of his compatriots, and is only preoccupied with the security of his regime.” 

“Despite repeated warnings from the international community, he has continued to develop North Korea’s nuclear and missile capabilities and continues to plan provocations,” the president went on. 
Yoon criticized North Korea for sending trash-filled balloons across the border in the South in response to propaganda leaflets sent by North Korean defector organizations, calling Pyongyang’s stunts “cowardly, irrational provocations.”
He also described North Korea and Russia’s recently signed pact cementing a comprehensive strategic partnership as “strengthening military and economic cooperation which directly violates UN Security Council resolutions,” marking “anachronistic moves that run counter to the progress of history.”
Yoon confirmed that the country would continue with a hard-line response to North Korea in the name of the South Korea-US alliance and “peace through strength.”
“We will respond overwhelmingly and decisively to North Korea’s provocations,” he said. “On the foundation of the South Korea-US alliance, which has only grown stronger with its 70th anniversary, we will stand in solidarity with countries that share our values of freedom to defend freedom and peace in this country.”
“Peace is not obtained through words. Overwhelming strength and a solid security posture is the only way we can protect the country and our people and to lead this land to true peace,” the president said. 
During his Memorial Day address earlier this year, Yoon used the phrase “unified Republic of Korea,” bringing to mind the policy of reunification by absorption.
“Ultimately, we will only be able to restore the North Korean people’s freedom and human rights and move forward toward a free, prosperous and unified Republic of Korea if we become stronger,” he said at the time. 
Tuesday marked the first time Yoon attended a ceremony commemorating the Korean War since his inauguration. During the last administration, the Korean War commemoration ceremony was usually attended by the prime minister, a tradition which was upheld by Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, who attended the ceremony in 2022 and 2023 on behalf of the administration.
A presidential office official stated, “We took into account the recent political landscape on the Korean Peninsula, such as the strengthening ties between North Korea and Russia, and the president attended the ceremony in person to communicate the importance of patriotism and national security.”

While the Korean War memorial service has previously been held in Seoul, it was held in Daegu this year as part of an initiative by the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs for metropolises around the country to host the service in turn so that Korean War veterans in the countryside can have more opportunities to attend. Following the service, Yoon and first lady Kim Keon-hee held a banquet for some 60 veterans of the war.

But Yoon faces criticism for reinforcing the “new Cold War” framework by reiterating his anti-communist ideology and US-oriented “values diplomacy.”

“Despite calls for a shift to a more balanced, pragmatic foreign policy after the Moscow-Pyongyang summit, the president doubled down on his commitment to a US-oriented rules-based foreign policy in his message on the anniversary of the Korean War. Korea is leading the way to a ‘new Cold War’ order,” said Koh Yu-hwan, professor emeritus at Dongguk University and former director of the Korea Institute for National Unification.

“The Yoon administration is driving up military tensions on the Korean Peninsula by continuing this pugnacious tit-for-tat with North Korea,” said Choi Min-Seok, a spokesperson for the Democratic Party.

By Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter; Kwon Hyuk-chul, staff reporter

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