Seoul / Brussels, 26 September 2018 - South Korean officials are hopeful that the recent Summit between President Moon and Chairman Kim Jong-un helps to overcome the stalemate over the North Korean nuclear programme, a delegation of NATO Parliamentarians learned during a visit to Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone.
The importance of reaching an agreement on the denuclearisation of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK – North Korea) was repeatedly emphasised in the exchanges between Members of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea (ROK – South Korea) and the delegation. Making progress on the nuclear issue is an important aspect of lowering tensions on the Korean peninsula – which is a top priority of the government of President Moon Jae-in as Cho Hyun, Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, and members of the National Assembly pointed out. Reminding the NATO parliamentarians that there has been progress as well as setbacks in addressing the security challenges that the DPRK posed, he, and other South Korean officials said that it was “high time to achieve another break through”. The visit of the NATO PA delegation was particularly timely as it took place at the time of the inter-Korean Summit between President Moon and Kim Jong-un, Supreme Leader of North Korea, in Pyongyang.
While ROK officials were hopeful that the Summit will overcome the current stalemate in the US DPRK talks they also acknowledged that it was unclear whether the regime in Pyongyang would be willing to eventually give up its nuclear weapons. The ROK continues to abide by the sanctions’ regime against North Korea, but it would be ready to provide economic assistance to the North if Pyongyang would give up its nuclear weapons programme, the delegation heard. Korean officials also stressed the importance of the U.S. military presence in the ROK – which should be maintained even after an eventual unification of the two Koreas.
Regional security issues and the ROK-NATO relationship were also issues that featured prominently on the agenda of the visit. Host country interlocutors emphasised the importance of the People’s Republic of China for regional and international security. Ahn Gyuback and Kang Seok-Ho, Chairpersons of the National Assembly’s Defence and of the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committees, respectively, thanked the delegation for the Assembly’s continued interest in and the support for the Republic of Korea. Noting that the Republic of Korea and NATO share the same values, Korean interlocutors suggested that NATO and the ROK should use the opportunity to think about ways of enhanced cooperation between the two while exploring future avenues for strengthening cooperation between the National Assembly and the NATO Parliamentary Assembly at the same time.
The NATO Parliamentarians visited Seoul and the Demilitarized Zone from 17 to 20 September 2018. During their visit to the Republic of Korea, the NATO PA delegation met with the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the National Assembly’s Committees for Defence and Foreign Affairs and Unification; the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs.
The NATO Parliamentarians were also briefed by representatives of several Allied diplomatic missions and by Signe Poulsen, the Representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. During a visit to the Demilitarized Zone, Lieutenant General Wayne Eyre, Deputy Commander of the United Nations Command, and Lieutenant General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, Deputy Commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, informed the delegates of the security situation on the Korean Peninsula and at the Demilitarized Zone in particular. The delegation, members of the Political Committee’s Sub Committee on Transatlantic Relations (PCTR), consisted of 11 Parliamentarians from 7 NATO member countries; the visit was chaired by Ahmet Berat Conkar (Turkey), Vice Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Transatlantic Relations.
The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea participates in the NATO Parliamentary Assembly with the status of parliamentary observer. A detailed report of the PCTR mission to South Korea will be published on the Political Committee page of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s website.
Photos of the visit are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/natopa/albums/72157671493068447