South Korean President Moon Jae-in presides over a meeting at the Blue House with senior secretaries and aides on Feb. 25. (Blue House photo pool)
On Feb. 25, just two days before the North Korea-US summit, South Korean President Moon Jae-in reiterated his intention for Seoul to play a leading role in Korean Peninsula affairs. Amid the possibility of North Korea and the US making an end-of-war declaration during the summit, Moon has expressed his determination to take ownership of affairs on the Korean Peninsula during the construction of a peace regime and full-fledged economic cooperation.
“We will take the lead in preparing for a new Korean Peninsula regime by standing at the center, rather than the periphery, of history,” Moon said while presiding over a meeting of aides and senior secretaries at the Blue House on Feb. 25. While Moon has previously unveiled a plan for a “new Korean Peninsula economy” predicated on the success of the North Korea-US summit and the development of inter-Korean relations, this is the first time he has referred to a “new Korean Peninsula regime.”
The plan for this new Korean Peninsula regime appears to go beyond economic affairs and emphasize South Korea playing a leading role in the realignment of the order around the Korean Peninsula that will unfold after the North Korea-US summit. With these remarks, Moon appears to have been both expressing his positive expectations about the summit and urging the two leaders to get meaningful results.
North Korea and the US are expected to seek common ground on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and on concrete corresponding measures. There are even expectations that the two countries will make a declaration ending the Korean War during the summit, leading to rapid progress on Korean Peninsula affairs.
During the regular briefing on Monday, Blue House Spokesperson Kim Eui-kyeom mentioned the possibility of the two countries making an end-of-war declaration. “The fundamental meaning of an end-of-war declaration would be to bring about North Korea’s denuclearization,” Kim said. Considering that such a declaration would point the way toward a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, the Blue House didn’t conceal its hopes that this summit could be the first step toward ending a hostile relationship that has lasted for 70 years.
During the meeting, Moon used multiple expressions such as “ownership,” “initiative” and a “leading role” while expressing his hope for a transformation of affairs on the Korean Peninsula following the North Korea-US summit. Given the growing likelihood of not only inter-Korean relations but also relationships among Korea’s neighbors and the Northeast Asian order itself undergoing a realignment, Moon’s remarks are being taken as the determination to actively seek a modus vivendi rather than meekly trying to survive being crushed between the US, China, Japan and Russia.
“I believe that President Moon was emphasizing that the South Korean government has a definite role to play after the North Korea-US summit and saying that he thinks the South Korean political establishment will need to start preparing for a new order, depending on what agreement is reached in the summit,” a senior official at the Blue House said during a telephone call with the Hankyoreh on Monday.
“The president said [during the meeting] that the inter-Korean and North Korea-US situation is better ever before and that ‘we’re going to go where we’ve never been before,’” said another official at the Blue House.
New Korean Peninsula regime likely to focus on economic cooperation
The crux of Moon’s “new Korean Peninsula regime” is likely to be economic matters. “The reason we’re cheering for the two leaders and wishing for the success of their summit is because this is a decisive opportunity to resolve the threat of war and security fears on the Korean Peninsula and to move into the age of the peace economy,” Moon said. “If the North Korean economy opens up, neighboring countries, international organizations and international capital will get involved.”
During a telephone call with Trump on Feb. 19, Moon said that South Korea is “prepared to connect inter-Korean roads and railroads and to carry out inter-Korean economic cooperation projects” if Trump asks it to take on that role.
“The president made clear that we are the masters of the destiny of the Korean Peninsula; that we must actively work for peace, economic cooperation and the restoration of our national homogeneity; and that our mission is exchange, cooperation and prosperity in East Asia,” the senior Blue House official said.
By Kim Bo-hyeop and Seong Yeon-cheol, staff reporters
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