Never once mentioning missiles, South Korean President Moon Jae-in again pushed for peace and reconciliation with North Korea at the United Nations on Tuesday, a week after recent missile testing on both ends of the peninsula renewed tensions between the two rivals.
Addressing the UN General Assembly in person in New York on Tuesday, Moon reiterated his push for a denuclearized coexistence and “co-prosperity” for the two countries that ended the three-year Korean War in a 1953 armistice that halted the fighting but never led to a formal declaration of peace.
“North Korea, for its part, must brace for changes that benefit the era of global community,” Moon said in his address at the largest gathering of world leaders. “I expect that the international community…remain always ready and willing to reach out to North Korea in a cooperative spirit.”
A week ago, both countries tested ballistic missiles hours apart, underscoring rising tensions. South Korea’s tests included its first of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, which came after the South Korean and Japanese militaries said North Korea had fired two ballistic missiles into the sea.
As Moon claimed South Korea’s growing missile capabilities will serve as a “sure deterrence” against North Korean provocations, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned of a “complete destruction” of bilateral relations if Moon continued with what she described as slander of North Korea.
The back and forth unfolded as North Korea made waves this month with nuclear-capable missiles hidden in trains that can be launched anywhere along a railway, a new cruise missile resembling the US Tomahawk that can be potentially topped with atomic warheads and the apparent resumption of fuel production for potential nuclear bombs.
But on Tuesday, Moon made no note of missiles testing before the General Assembly, instead focusing on the fact that this year’s gathering marked the 30th anniversary of both countries being admitted to the United Nations.
“With the joint accession to the UN, the two Koreas both recognized that they were two separate nations, different in systems and ideologies,” Moon said. “However, such was never meant to perpetuate the division. For when we acknowledged and respected each other, only then could we set out on a path to exchange, reconciliation and unification.”
Moon also repeated some of the same pleas from his speech last year, including pushing for a formal end-of-war declaration. He suggested the region would be better positioned to handle the Covid-19 pandemic if the North would join the Moon-proposed Northeast Asia Cooperation for Health Security.
North Korea is scheduled to speak Monday, the final day of the General Assembly leaders’ meeting. AP