I served as Chairman of the 2007 Inter-Korean Summit Preparation Committee. Even though I did not attend the October 4 Summit in person, I oversaw the whole process of the event, including the agenda, strategies, schedules and various programs, as well as follow-up talks. For this reason, I can say I have experience in holding an inter-Korean summit and making it a success.
Nonetheless, now is a far cry from then. At that time, two documents had already been agreed to—the Joint Statement of the Fourth Round of the Six-Party Talks on September 19, 2005, and the Initial Actions for the Implementation of the Joint Statement on February 13, 2007—that enunciated how to address the North Korean nuclear issue. What remained between the South and North back then was only to discuss how to advance inter-Korean relations. Our goal at that time was to maximize agreements on concrete projects to make good on the June 15 South-North Joint Declaration of 2000 and have the North accept them as much as possible. As there was no international sanction against the North then, the only task left with us was to persuade the North to accept agreements, and better-than-expected fruitful results were able to be harvested.
However, the North’s nuclear weapons and missiles have now become incomparably more sophisticated than at that time. Under these circumstances, we are required to initiate an agreement on the North’s nuclear and missile program, which should lead to the success of the North Korea-U.S. summit. With tough international and U.S. sanctions against the North in place now, there is not much that can be separately agreed to between the South and North within the boundaries of those sanctions.
We are facing a situation in which inter-Korean relations will be able to progress only in step with the lifting of international sanctions following the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. The success of inter-Korean dialogue alone will not guarantee an overall improvement in inter-Korean relations—the relationship between the two Koreas will only be able to take a step forward when North Korea-U.S. ties and North Korea-Japan relations improve together.
I believe we are on the same page when it comes to what denuclearization means. What many pundits expected in the past about the denuclearization of North Korea was that the North might agree to negotiate with the United States on prohibiting or freezing nuclear proliferation while claiming its status as a nuclear weapons state.
Some people argued that the United States would only be able to reach an agreement with the North at a level that might differ from what South Korea wants. However, North Korea is now expressing its will to completely denuclearize without putting forth any preconditions unacceptable to the United States such as the withdrawal of its troops from South Korea. What the North wants is an end to the U.S. hostile policy against it and an assurance of a security guarantee. I believe the two sides are now showing their willingness to hold a summit as there have been certain confirmations on these issues.
Given this, I do not think that it is a tall order to reach a framework agreement in principle on denuclearization through the inter-Korean summit or the North Korea-U.S. summit, the establishment of a peace regime when denuclearization is realized, the normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations and the provision of international aid for the North`s economic growth if such a normalization occurs. Agreeing on these matters will not be that difficult as agreements have already been reached through the September 19 Joint Statement and the February 13 Agreement. However, as many people are concerned, it is not easy to put these goals into practice in a concrete manner. Past methods cannot be employed again, and thus, it is necessary to work out new measures, on which the United States and North Korea need to agree for the sake of the overall success of the summit. Ultimately, such an agreement has to be concluded between the United States and North Korea, not between the two Koreas.
To facilitate the process leading to an agreement between the two sides, the South will be able to make its own efforts to help narrow down differences in opinions and present practical measures acceptable to both sides. Who would have perfect solutions to all such issues? Now I am pondering what should be done, and the Government is also striving to seek solutions. I ask you all to share any good ideas in this connection at any time through a personal contact or news reports.
In any case, the ultimate purpose is the mutual prosperity of the two Koreas. No matter whether it is denuclearization or peace, what we intend to achieve is a Korean peninsula where two Koreas prosper together. As I said, I believe this has to be accompanied by improvements in relations between North Korea and the United States and between North Korea and Japan. Maybe it would only be possible with China’s support and participation as well. Even under these circumstances, helping North Korea achieve economic development and progress will not only be feasible when there is inter-Korean cooperation but when there is also participation by the international community.
I do not think it is an issue of being conservative or progressive. Of course, I will make endeavors to exchange views with the conservatives. However, the conservatives and progressives are not very different on this issue, and, in any case, not only the inter-Korean summit but also the summit between North Korea and the United States will be held one after the other. Any solution will only be complete on condition of the success of the summit between North Korea and the United States. I believe even those with conservative views will perhaps come to an understanding during the process. Anyway, the biggest challenge is to overcome “the devil in the details.”
It will also be a new beginning. I do not believe the issue will be solved all at once. As I said earlier, there are now many limits, especially to the inter-Korean summit. South and North Korea cannot get ahead of themselves and reach agreements that would breach the international sanctions irrespective of the summit between North Korea and the United States. Above all, I believe the inter-Korean summit has to get off to a good start, and probably inter-Korean talks should continue to proceed in sync with the results of the summit between North Korea and the United States. It would be best if an agreement is made on the big picture all at once through the inter-Korean summit or the summit between North Korea and the United States. Even if that does not happen, it is apparent that they should create a momentum that could drive continued dialogue. We will continue to make endeavors to this end.
I understand the need for a reunion of families separated by the Korean War. China needs to join in these efforts as well. I believe that even if an agreement is made between the two Koreas, and then between North Korea and the United States, the implementation of any agreement would be possible only when there is participation by all surrounding nations.
Again, thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule today and showing so much support.