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2nd Vice Minister’s Keynote Speech on the occasion of the Ambassadors Roundtable at the 14th Jeju Forum(Jeju, May 29, 2019)

  • Date : 2019-05-29 16:10:24
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Keynote Speech by H.E. Mr. Lee Taeho
Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs
On the occasion of the Ambassadors Roundtable
at the 14th Jeju Forum
Jeju, May 29, 2019

Ambassador Choi Young-jin, moderator of this session,
Dear colleagues,
Distinguished Guests,

Good afternoon, I am very delighted to be here with you at the 14th Jeju Forum.

I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all the ambassadors who have come here for this Diplomatic Roundtable. My warm welcome and deep thanks also go to all the participants.

Let me start with one study about the history of war and peace. According to this study, it is estimated that the recorded history of mankind dates back to 3,520 years ago, and during that time, mankind lived free of war for only 280 years. In other words, people have waged wars for a total of 3,235 years, representing more than 90 percent of the entire span of recorded history.

War was natural and peace was something to make. Moreover we came to realize, as history unfolded, that maintaining peace is as difficult as that of making peace.

To borrow a terminology of physics,

peace exists as an unstable equilibrium. Once we deviate from peace, we tend to move further away from it. We need to add a specific vector power in order to go back to the equilibrium. Peace is as fragile as glass. It can be easily broken if we are not vigilant enough.

In fact, what has happened in Korea is a case in point. As all of us gathered here know, there has been a repeated pattern of tension and hope on the Korean Peninsula in last several decades. Permanent peace is yet to come.

Given the current international political landscape surrounding the Korean Peninsula, I believe it is very timely and relevant to talk about “resilient peace” in Asia. Resilience is a vector power I referred to a moment ago that can bring us back to peace when we are not placed at the handle, or vertex of the bell-shaped parabola of international politics. Resilient peace is not something that comes naturally. We need to work for it.

In this regard, I would like to suggest, as your food for thought for today’s discussion, four elements that may play a role of ingredient for “resilient peace in Asia.”

First, in order to realize resilient peace in Asia, it is of utmost importance to achieve “sustainable peace” on the Korean Peninsula. Peace on the Korean Peninsula may not be a sufficient condition for resilient peace in Asia as a whole but it is surely a necessary condition.

The sporadically heightened tensions and conflicts on the Korean Peninsula have posed major threats not only to Asia but to the entire world as well.

Fortunately, last year, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics made a warm spring breeze blow across the Korean Peninsula. And the ensuing peace process has made progress. Three Inter-Korean Summits and two US-North Korea Summits have been historic breakthroughs.

After the Hanoi Summit in February, the dialogue between the United States and North Korea has yet to be resumed. And early this month, North Korea launched short-range missiles. These recent developments generated concerns among people regarding the future course of the on-going peace process.

Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize the fact that, despite the recurrent crises on the Korean Peninsula in the past, Koreans have kept on moving forward. In close coordination with the United States, building on our iron-clad alliance, the Korean government will continue to work toward a peaceful, nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.

The second element for the realization of resilient peace in Asia will be facilitating people-to-people exchanges and boosting economic interactions among Asian countries.

Enhanced people-to-people and cultural exchanges and increased economic interactions among countries may not by themselves prevent conflicts but can serve to strengthen mutual understanding among peoples. And mutual understanding is conducive to the building of mutual confidence.

Cooperation and confidence building may generate a momentum that can enable us to bounce back to peace and overcome any unanticipated tension or discord. It is, therefore, imperative to promote cooperation among Asian countries.

As far as Korea is concerned, this idea is embodied in its New Southern Policy and New Northern Policy. With these policies, Korea hopes to contribute to building a community of peace and co-prosperity beyond the Korean Peninsula, where all people in Asia live together and thrive in harmony. With ASEAN and Eurasian countries, we want to work together to expand the scope of cooperation that will lead to peaceful and prosperous future that starts from the Korean Peninsula.

The New Southern Policy pursues “3Ps,” namely, People, Prosperity and Peace. It seeks to build a community of peace and prosperity with a people-centered perspective, where all members are better off together. Various cooperation programs are being implemented. Such projects are meaningful not only in terms of yielding economic benefits but also in terms of nurturing a culture of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence. The same is the case for the New Northern Policy that encourage our cooperation with Russia and Central Asian countries.

Third, I consider it imperative to institutionalize practices of cooperation among nations if we want to make peace resilient. For cooperation among nations, rules are needed and enhanced cooperation creates rules among nations. The multilateral rules thus created become a basis for institutionalized practices of cooperation.

In this regard, Europe is an exemplary case. We can draw valuable lessons from the European experience. Even though Europe experienced two great wars in the 20th century, they were persistent in the post-war years in fostering and institutionalizing cooperation within the region. I believe that likewise, practicing and institutionalizing cooperation will pave the way to resilient peace in Asia.

Last year, President Moon Jae-in proposed building an “East Asian Railway Community”. As the European Union started from the European Coal and Steel Community, the East Asian Railway Community will also evolve into an East Asian Energy Community and an East Asian Economic Community, putting in place eventually a multilateral peace and security system in Northeast Asia.

The proposed Northeast Asia Platform for Peace and Cooperation is also intended to consolidated and institutionalize cooperation by accumulation practices of dialogue and cooperative endeavors among countries concerned within and without Northeast Asia.

Lastly, I should not forget to mention another important element of peace and shared prosperity. That is the spirit of “embracing others”. You may call it “sharing the value of inclusiveness”, if you will. This is acknowledging that others may be different from me but they can work with me. This spirit could serve as a basic value upon which multilateral rules get based and resilient peace is built. 

When states and people embrace the spirit of inclusiveness, they will be able to engage in mutually beneficial cooperation. When the outcomes of cooperation turn out to be mutually beneficial, the cooperation will continue and lead to building a system of cooperation, in other words, institutionalizing cooperation. This will be the basis for sustainable peace and shared prosperity in which all live well and in harmony.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, I’ve talked about four elements that could be helpful in realizing “resilient peace in Asia” in an attempt to provoke your discussion. All these things cannot be done in a day. Nor will the work of just one country be sufficient.

It is possible only when all the countries concerned, including the countries the ambassadors are representing here today, fully participate, in concert and with patience, in the common efforts toward:

- building sustainable peace on the Korean Peninsula;
- expanding cooperation in the Asian region;
- institutionalizing cooperation; and
- sharing the value of inclusiveness.

I look forward to hearing valuable ideas and insightful thoughts from you while we walk through towards our common vision of resilient peace in Asia

Thank you very much. /END/