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[Incumbent] Remarks at High-Level Segment of Conference on Disarmament (CD)

  • Date : 2019-02-26 13:48:07
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Remarks by
H.E. Kang Kyung-wha
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Korea

Conference on Disarmament
25 February 2019

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

I am delighted to be back at the Conference on Disarmament, as this august body celebrates its 40th anniversary.

Forty years ago, during the dark days of the Cold War, amid a desperate need to curb the escalating arms race and a rising nuclear stockpile, the first Special Session of the UN General Assembly devoted to Disarmament (SSOD-1) was convened in 1978. The CD was thus born and since then, the CD made vital contributions to international peace and security by producing milestone disarmament instruments, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC – 1993) and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-ban Treaty (CTBT – 1996).
However, for the past two decades, the CD has fallen into a deep slumber, even as the world has gradually slid into an increasingly complex and volatile security environment.

Moreover, military spending has reached its highest peak since the end of the Cold War, while several disarmament bodies in Geneva are suffering from budgetary difficulties. Long-enshrined norms such as the prohibition of the use of chemical weapons have been repeatedly violated.

The expansion of human activities into outer space and cyber space, combined with the rapid evolution of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, hypersonic weapons, and digital interference capabilities, has further complicated the international security landscape. And, the world watches closely as the fate of the INF Treaty and its potential impact on the whole disarmament architecture unfold.

And yet, we are seeing an erosion of consensus within the global disarmament community. The loss of consensus on numerous UN General Assembly resolutions last year is a testimony to the growing schism among countries.

At such a time, more so than ever, the CD, as the single multilateral disarmament negotiating forum, must leverage its institutional memory and face up to this new reality.

In this regard, I would like to commend the works of the subsidiary bodies and their substantive work last year, while we continue our efforts to agree on a Program of Work. We must keep up the momentum and shore up the relevance of the CD, for which a more realistic, flexible and practical approach is needed. I welcome the works of the UK Presidency to this end. It would also be useful to consider and discuss expanding its membership and promoting the efficiency of the current working method. 

The CD should go further and contribute to the 2020 NPT Review Conference. We can ill afford another failure, but concerns are already high that we are yet to see tangible progress to ensure the success of the upcoming Review Conference. In this context, my government finds the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT) as an issue to which the CD could make substantial and immediate contribution, based on the works of the High-level Expert Preparatory Group.

Also, as the CD continues discussions on various issues, I hope it will be mindful of the implications of disarmament for the Sustainable Development Goals, as laid out in the Secretary General’s Agenda for Disarmament. My government will support his efforts in any way we can, including through the annual ROK-UN Disarmament and Nonproliferation Conference.

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

During the past year, the developments on the Korean Peninsula have been a distinctively positive news for the global security community. An epicenter of global instability for many decades, the Korean Peninsula has changed course and become a source of hope. If my remark on the DPRK last year at the CD expressed “cautious hope”, this year, I am glad to say that I bring a message of “progress and expectation”.

The three Inter-Korean Summits and the first-ever US-DPRK Summit last year brought about a historic shift on the Korean Peninsula, from a long-entrenched paradigm of confrontation and hostility to one of peace and dialogue. Through these historical engagements, the top leaders of the two Koreas and the United States agreed to work together to realize a nuclear-free and peaceful Korean Peninsula.  

The agreements have been followed up with confidence-building measures, such as the return of MIA remains from North Korea to the United States, and the two sides have continued the engagement at high and working levels.

Between South and North Korea, a military agreement to reduce tension and eliminate the chances of accidental clashes has been implemented – for example, to tear down several guard posts on the two sides of the military demarcation line, to designate no-fly zones, to disarm the Joint Security Area around Panmunjeom, and more. 

Inter-Korean dialogue has become active in other areas as well.     

And North Korea has repeatedly committed to complete denuclearization, and indicated its readiness to dismantle key parts of its nuclear and missiles program in return for corresponding measures to guarantee its security.

In just a few days the 2nd US-DPRK Summit will take place in Hanoi. We expect it to be another important milestone in our efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We look forward to tangible and substantial results coming out of this meeting.

In the meantime, my government has been fully implementing the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and will continue to do so until we are assured that we are firmly and irrevocably on our way toward complete denuclearization. In pursuing inter-Korean cooperation, we are doing so in faithful adherence to the Security Council sanctions.

Mr. President,
Distinguished delegates,

Faced with the dark realities of his days, Martin Luther King once said that “we must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” I find this remark to be very relevant to both the CD and the Korean Peninsula.

The CD has been a disappointment for a long time, and the worsening geostrategic environment signals more turbulence ahead. But the CD was born amid even grimmer realities and has pushed through troubling times. We must not lose hope of finding a way to restore its credibility. If a major breakthrough is out of reach for now, we should continue to lay down small stepping stones, such as furthering the works of the subsidiary bodies.

As for the Republic of Korea, against many odds and disappointments, we opened a new road to peace through convention-defying leadership and vision. We are determined to stay the course until we achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. And we will build on these efforts to continue the work with the international community to reinvigorate the CD. 

Thank you very much.  /END/