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Moon calls for UN role in North Korea crisis

In debut UN speech, president reiterates dual approach toward Pyongyang of pressure and dialogue

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for a greater United Nations role in resolving the North Korea crisis, in his debut speech to the UN General Assembly on Thursday, urging fellow leaders to together confront the “Cold War’s last stand” in the Far East.

“The Korean Peninsula is where the guiding spirit of the UN -- world peace through multiculturalism -- is most desperately needed right now,” Moon said at the UN headquarters in New York. 

(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)

Introducing the two Koreas’ history of war, six decades of armistice and the latest flare-up of military tensions and saying South Koreans’ “hearts beat painfully” with memories of war and a growing desire for peace, Moon appealed for world leaders’ attention.

“Finding a fundamental way to end this vicious circle of provocations and sanctions is the most important task confronting the UN,” he said, reminding the audience of the UN’s inception after World War II as a means to prevent another destructive conflict.

To the North, Moon renewed his call for inter-Korean peace, first unveiled in Berlin in July, reiterating that South Korea “does not wish for its collapse.”

“We will not pursue any form of unification by absorption nor artificial unification. We are ready to help North Korea with the international community if it decides to stand at the right side of history.”

Moon’s message was a clear contrast to what the audience had heard a day earlier from US President Donald Trump, who said the US would “totally destroy” North Korea if it posed a direct threat to the US or its allies.

It also sought to revive on a global diplomatic stage his “Berlin initative” for reconciliation, which the North had dismissed as “sophistry.”

Pyongyang has since stepped up military provocations and exchanged a war of words with Washington, along the way sidelining Seoul.

Hostility continued Thursday as Pyongyang’s envoy to the UN, Ri Yong-ho, likened Trump to a barking dog. On Saturday, Pyongyang flew a missile over Japan’s airspace in a test, in blatant defiance of UN-led sanctions and US warnings. It followed a sixth nuclear detonation by the North on Sept. 3, which the communist regime claimed was the test of a hydrogen bomb that could be mounted on a missile.

After the atomic experiment, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted its strongest sanctions against the regime.

Moon, in his speech, praised the UN’s concerted and swift action on the nuke test and called for stronger pressure on the Kim Jong-un regime to bring it back to the negotiating table.

“All our efforts are to prevent war and maintain peace,” he said, stressing “peaceful, diplomatic and political solutions.”

“I hope North Korea will be able to choose a path of peace on one’s own volition. This is because only then, complete and sustainable peace can be achieved,” he said.

Later on Thursday, Moon was scheduled to hold a bilateral talk with Trump, to be followed by a tripartite summit involving Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. North Korea was undoubtedly to be the main focus of the meetings.

On Wednesday, his third day in New York, Moon once again invited North Korea to participate in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea.

“Tensions are high now, but that is only more the reason why we need peace,” Moon said during a special event aimed at promoting the Olympics to be held in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province.

“If the South and the North can join together at a time like this, it will be a great opportunity to send a message of reconciliation and peace to the world,” he added.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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