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UNSC Ministerial Meeting on DPRK Denuclearization(171215)
United Nations Security Council Ministerial Meeting on
Thank you very much for convening this meeting and the opportunity to speak to the Council. I also thank, Secretary General, for the briefing.
Let me start by rewinding the clock to December 2016. The Council had adopted resolutions 2270 and 2321 in response to North Korea’s fourth and fifth nuclear tests with the hope that this would change the behavior of North Korea.
However, fast forwarding to December 2017, the situations have further deteriorated. North Korea conducted yet another nuclear test and launched 20 ballistic missiles this year. To be fair, the international community responded by further strengthening and implementing the Security Council resolutions, while not losing sight of the efforts to resume dialogues. These endeavors, however, have not been enough to bring North Korea back to the negotiation table for denuclearization.
Just over a couple of weeks ago, North Korea launched its most advanced ballistic missile with intercontinental range. North Korea claimed afterwards to have achieved “the completion of its state nuclear force”. Amidst diverging assessments, what is certain is that North Korea is indeed in the final stages of nuclear weaponization.
If completed, it will fundamentally alter the security landscape in the region and beyond. Many commentators point out that it will aggravate tension in the already heavily-militarized region and even worry about the risk of nuclear proliferation to rogue states and non-state actors.
North Korea also threatens to shatter the foundations of international non-proliferation regimes and continues to inflict lasting harm on its own people. The international community, now more so than ever, must grasp the gravity and urgency of the North Korean threat and find ways to halt its nuclear program and bring it back to the path of denuclearization.
What matters more now is not a mere assessment of the North Korean threat, but rather our united will and firm action against this regime.
North Korea is fiercely waging a “battle of wills” against the international community. It wants to be recognized as a nuclear-weapons state on its own terms and conditions. Our answer should be “absolutely no.” We should not be coerced by North Korea’s continuing provocations, but rather uphold our principles while firmly responding to its reckless behaviors.
At the same time, we should not be provoked into conflict nor should we shut the doors of dialogue and peace. Our common goal is the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner.
In this context, I would like to underscore that the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games should be an “Olympic for peace.” My government urges North Korea to join the Olympic Games and to seize this opportunity for dialogue.
North Korea is also waging a “battle of actions” against the international community. Time and again, North Korea has found and taken advantage of the loopholes in the Council resolutions. North Korea has preyed on the weak links of the international community.
The sanctions are not an end in themselves and are not meant to bring down North Korea, but to bring it to the negotiation table for denuclearization. However, if we are to bring the unwilling North Korea back to the table, we must fill in all gaps identified in the implementation of the resolutions. In this regard, we deeply appreciate the active efforts of the 1718 Committee.
The international community has made some progress, including the restriction on oil supply, the export ban on North Korea’s key products, and the prohibition of overseas work authorization. Many countries, even those with long-standing relationship with North Korea, have joined these efforts including through the expulsion of individuals on the sanctions list. The record-high number of submissions of implementation reports for resolutions 2270 and 2321 is a testimony to the enhanced awareness of the international community regarding the North Korean threat.
However, in our race against North Korea, we need to do more – way more. North Korea’s evasive tactics are becoming more sophisticated and this regime continues to exploit all weak links. In fact, the Republic of Korea has been actively cooperating with its partners to identify and stop North Korea’s attempts to evade sanctions and seek alternative routes to sell coals and other banned products and to illegally import oil.
Let me emphasize that none of us should become that weak link, and that none of us should condone groups and individuals who assist North Korea’s defiance against this Council. In this regard, sharing best practices against North Korea’s evasive tactics would be helpful in closing the loopholes.
I began my remarks by recalling how we ended the year 2016 and how North Korea defiantly continued its series of provocations in 2017. We cannot afford to sit again at the end of 2018 and feel as if it were a déjà vu of 2017, regretting our “business-as-usual approach.”
The Council members and the international community must redouble their efforts to ensure a seamless and complete implementation of sanctions and apply as much pressure as necessary until North Korea returns to the negotiation table with a sincere willingness for denuclearization.
With a sense of urgency, we should make North Korea perceive without a doubt that it will pay heavily for its provocations, that it will never be accepted as a nuclear-weapons state, and that the dialogue for denuclearization is the only viable option.
The Republic of Korea reaffirms its solid commitment to achieve the denuclearization of North Korea and the establishment of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula. We will work closely with all countries to this end.