I am filled with deep emotion now that the historic North Korea-United States summit has been successfully held. Finally, it will be possible for us to remove the dark cloud of the Cold War that has cast a shadow over the Korean Peninsula and make vigorous strides in earnest toward the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and the settlement of permanent peace.
Looking back, the past year was an unpredictable period of great perils ranging from the North’s high-yield nuclear test and fifteen test-launches of missiles followed by repeated tough sanctions and pressure to exchanges of bellicose rhetoric between North Korea and the United States and the possible option of military action which could have escalated into war.
Nonetheless, we opened a path even in the dark. Starting with the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, we held two inter-Korean summits and came up with the Panmunjeom Declaration after frequently crossing back and forth over the truce line and the Pacific Ocean. These efforts led to the first-ever North Korea-U.S. summit.
Up until a short while ago, it would have been difficult to imagine a meeting between the leaders of North Korea and the United States, or indeed their issuance of a joint statement. Had it not been for their bold, strategic determination to affect changes, this agreement would have never been possible. Once again, I pay my respect to the courage and determination of President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un who made a tough decision.
The summit held this time carries crucial significance from many perspectives. The leaders of North Korea and the United States, which have only had hostile relations over the past seven decades since the establishment of the North Korean regime, met for the first time, promised to build a new North Korea-U.S. relationship and reached an agreement on the establishment of a permanent peace regime on the Korean Peninsula and the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
More than anything else, it is important for the countries concerned to share mutual understanding that addressing long-lasting military tensions and hostile relations between the United States and North Korea by newly establishing bilateral, forward-looking relations was the only way to bring about the North's complete denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula. Through this consensus, the two Koreas and the United States came to have a clear common understanding on the goals of complete denuclearization and the promotion of peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula, which South and North Korea promised to pursue in the Panmunjeom Declaration. On top of this, the consecutive success of the inter-Korean summits and the North Korea-U.S. summit as well as the agreement to continue talks going forward have laid the institutional framework to promote the advancement of inter-Korean relations and North Korea-U.S. ties in a mutually reinforcing manner.
There exist different evaluations of the outcome of the North Korea-U.S. summit. However, the most significant diplomatic achievement made this time is the fact that the summit has allowed people across the world, including Americans, Japanese and Koreans, to escape from threat of war and nuclear weapons and missiles.
Still, this is just a start. Even though definite directions have been set, we are still tasked with working out concrete implementation measures. It will be necessary to continuously and patiently encourage the leaders of North Korea and the United States to put their resolutions into action in a swift manner.
North Korea needs to give more substance to its implementation measures for denuclearization while the United States has to accelerate the process of putting into practice its agreement with the North by swiftly coming up with corresponding comprehensive measures.
The Republic of Korea is a direct stakeholder in all issues relating to the Korean peninsula. With a sense of ownership of our fate, we need to continue to play an active role and lead efforts for peace. The nuclear issue has a direct bearing on the future of the Republic of Korea. We need to take the initiative in playing a pivotal role and have to make our best efforts to ensure that the peace process on the Korean Peninsula makes steady and continued headway.
I expect that there will be follow-up negotiations taking place swiftly for the implementation of what was agreed to at the North Korea-U.S. summit. We will also have to work together so that the coordination and agreement over key issues will progress smoothly across the Government. I hope that diplomacy and security- related ministries will have a rigorous sense of responsibility and closely cooperate in order to achieve the clear goal of complete denuclearization and the settlement of a permanent peace regime. At the same time, the unwavering Korea-U.S. cooperation and combined defense posture need to be maintained based on the ironclad Korea-U.S. alliance.
Now peace and development on the Korean Peninsula have to be approached from a more inclusive point of view.
It is time to embrace the new spirit of the times of peace on the Korean Peninsula and the mutual prosperity of the two Koreas, moving beyond the issues of the denuclearization of the North and security guarantees. We should take a hopeful step forward toward the promotion of the balanced development of the two Koreas by breaking away from the frame of the armistice that has lasted since 1953 and, moreover, the common prosperity of Northeast Asia. Therefore, it is time to break out of the mentality that our country has been practically an island on land, connect the two Koreas to reach across the continent and the ocean, and consider bold and innovative challenges that can help us lead an era of a great transition toward peace and prosperity.
Beginning with an improvement in inter-Korean relations early this year, an opportunity for a turning point in the history of the Korean Peninsula has miraculously emerged. Now it is time to make that miracle a solid reality. I will make my utmost efforts to bring about the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, establish a peace regime and start a new chapter in the history of peace, cooperation, coexistence and prosperity.
I ask fellow Koreans to put their trust in the Government and come together with one unified mind.