- Ministry News
Foreign Minister's interview with PBS(9.26)
Woodruff: All this week, world leaders are gathered in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. At his speech this week, President Trump reiterated his position that North Korea could achieve economic greatness if it’s willing to give up its nuclear weapons program. William Brangham gets a view of what progress, if any, is being made on that front from South Korea’s Foreign Minister.
Brangham: President Trump and Kim Jong-un have had two summits and one historic handshake, but not much to show for it. The North Koreans spent the summer testing short-range missiles, and nuclear talks seemed far way. So, how does this situation look from South Korea? For that, I’m joined by Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha. She joins me from New York. Foreign Minister, thank you very much for being here. President Trump has continued to try to broker this grand deal with North Korea. They’ve had three meetings thus far, lots of pageantry, but not very much substance. Do you think the North Koreans do want to sign a nuclear deal?
FM: First of all, thank you for having me. But I think, beyond the pageantry, the significance of the summits is, of course, that they build and maintain the trust between the top leaders of the two countries. I think the North Korean commitment to continue dialogue to reach a deal is there. Their recent public messages have confirmed that, so we very much expect the working-level discussions to resume from where things were left off in Hanoi at the end of February. I think President Trump’s messages also confirm the readiness on the side of the United States to pick up where things were left off in Hanoi. And we expect that – because Hanoi didn’t end in an agreement but I think that a silver lining to that was that the two sides came out with a much better understanding on the expectations on the other side of the aisle – when the negotiations resume, there could be a quick progress on all three, four tracks of the agreement that was reached in their first summit meeting in Singapore in June last year.
Brangham: I hear the optimism that you’re conveying there, but the North Koreans have been quite firm that they want economic sanctions off, they want financial aid, and then they’ll be willing to make moves on their nuclear weapons program. The United States wants that order reversed. They want the concessions on the weapons programs, and then sanctions. Do you see way that those two competing threads could be married together?
FM: I think that’s the key. And I think therefore, things have to move in parallel simultaneously. And that’s also the basic agreement of Singapore, to start building improved relations between the two sides, to start working towards peace regime on the Korean peninsula and the North Korean commitment to denuclearization. And I think the U.S. side is committed to moving simultaneously along all three tracks. The fourth track having been the excavation of the MIA remains in the hands of North Korea, that has taken place, we expect that to continue to take place as well, the fourth pillar being the confidence-building measure. But we, of course, work in very close consultations with the U.S., and our discussions with our U.S. colleagues indicate the readiness to move on all four tracks.
Brangham: Is it your sense that there is a commonly understood definition of what “denuclearization” actually means? Because it seems like we’ve had multiple different iterations of what that means. Does that mean that... if North Korea gives up its weapons program but still might be able to have nuclear power or electricity, would that be acceptable, do you think?
FM: I think the concept, the goal is very clear - for us, for the global community. For Korea, the concept of “denuclearization” is spelled out in a joint declaration between South and North Korea on denuclearization dating back to 1993. We’ve live up to our part of that agreement. For the global community, it’s clearly spelled out in the Security Council Resolution. The question is how to get to that goal, how to reach that objective. And I think that North Korea clearly has a different idea of how it wants to reach that goal. But it has committed repeatedly, from the top leader himself, to that goal of complete denuclearization, and so the task is then to spell out a roadmap whereby we could reach that goal.
Brangham: I’d like to turn to the issue of the seemingly worsening relationship between South Korea and Japan. We’ve seen that this is over several issues. One about the forced labor that occurred during WWII and another one towards these debates over export controls. Do you think that this rift can be healed? It seems like it is getting worse every day.
FM: History casts a long shadow, as I always say. And we’re also very close neighbors that have built a very interdependent relationship over the past seven decades. And being optimist as you note, but also being Foreign Minister of my country, we remain committed to resolving the issues through honest dialogue, and good faith. I had my first meeting with the new Foreign Minister of Japan, and my commitment to continue to work with him and his team on all of these difficult tracks remains very strong. I think the issue of forced labor is clarified in our Supreme Court judgment of late last year. And yes, it’s a tough issue, because we have different recollections, different ways in which we want to approach the past. But the trade-restrictive measures for us are clearly unacceptable and retaliatory. But we are committed to finding a way through this very difficult situation through continued diplomatic engagement.
Brangham: Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, thank you very much for being here.