1st vice foreign minister stresses need for continued Seoul-Washington dialogue

Posted on : 2020-06-25 17:46 KST Modified on : 2020-06-25 17:46 KST
Cho Sei-young gives speech at CSIS in Washington on inter-Korean affairs
South Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Sei-young
South Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Sei-young

“We must adamantly reject the cynical belief that peace is just a vain dream.”

South Korean First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Cho Sei-young stressed the need for “ongoing engagement” and “new dialogue” between Seoul and Washington to bring Pyongyang back to the table for dialogue. He delivered his remarks as a keynote speaker at the 5th Republic of Korea-US Strategic Forum, co-hosted via video conference on June 24 by the Korea Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a conservative Washington think tank with a major influence on US foreign affairs and national security policy decisions.

“Important progress has been achieved [on the North Korean nuclear issue] over the past two years, but unfortunately we are once again facing a situation of rising tensions between South and North,” Cho said in his speech that day.

“The South Korean government has been making ongoing efforts to prevent tensions from intensifying. The risk is too great to turn the clock back now, and we’ve been succumbing to frustrations because of the difficulties,” he added.

“The only constructive option for moving forward is a sound prescription for the patient through dialogue and ongoing engagement,” he stressed.

Cho’s remarks reiterated the need for dialogue in the face of a US conservative mainstream that has grown increasingly skeptical of Pyongyang’s commitment to denuclearization amid the recent sudden souring of inter-Korean relations and the controversy over former White House National Security Advisor John Bolton’s memoirs. Speaking via remote at a seminar organized by the institute on June 17, former US Forces Korea Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks called for the Korean Peninsula deployment of nuclear weapon-capable bombers, F-35 aircraft, aircraft carriers, and nuclear submarines, explaining that “we would be seeking ways to increase pressure with the military instrument.”

US, China need to reconcile differences and work together toward common goal

Cho went on to say that “peace on and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula are an important area where the US and China can set aside their differences and work together toward a common goal.”

“We must adamantly reject the cynical belief and self-fulfilling prophecy that ongoing peace in the region is simply a vain dream that has gotten farther away because of the US-China rivalry,” he stressed.

He also said, “Bringing North Korea back to the negotiating table to achieve denuclearization and creating a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula are not only in South Korea’s interests, but open up opportunities for Washington as well as it attempts to implement its strategic goals for the region.”

“This shared objective and these shared interests between our two countries will ultimately help to sustain and strengthen the alliance,” he predicted.

Emphasis on S. Korea’s increased defense contributions and weapons purchases

Commenting on the recently troubled South Korea-US Special Measures Agreement talks, Cho noted that South Korea is a major importer of US-made weapons, and that it has increased its defense spending by an average of 7.5% per year since 2017, with the total currently representing 2.6% of GDP. He also observed that this contribution was greater than the 2% that US President Donald Trump has been demanding from Germany and other NATO members. The US has continued making immoderate demands for South Korea’s share of defense costs, including requesting a total of US$1.3 billion -- an increase of 50% from the 1.04 trillion won (US$862.3 million) share last year -- in the 11th round of negotiations held in Washington in early May.

By Gil Yun-hyung, staff writer

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