1. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se attended the foreign ministerial Conference on Global Leadership in the Arctic: Cooperation, Innovation, Engagement and Resilience (GLACIER), which was hosted by US Secretary of State John Kerry in Anchorage, Alaska, the US, on August 30 and 31. At the meeting, the Minister explained the Arctic policy of the Republic of Korea and conveyed the country’s willingness to work with the international community on the Arctic.
2. In his remarks delivered during Session I under the theme of “The Arctic's Unique Role in Influencing the Global Climate,” Minister Yun spoke of the need to promote scientific research on the Arctic region; for the international community to work together toward the success of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Paris; and to seek sustainable development of the Arctic, an important component of the ROK government’s Eurasia Initiative.
◦ The Minister introduced the outcome of recent studies by Korean scientists which revealed that severe winters across East Asia and North America have been associated with anomalous warmth in the Arctic region, adding that it is why the ROK and the other non-Arctic countries should pay attention to linkages between climate change in the Arctic and severe winter weather patterns in mid-latitude regions. In addition, he stressed that in order to make a success of the COP21 in Paris in December, which will be an important turning point in establishing a new climate regime, leading countries should muster their political resolve and support should be provided to developing countries to address climate change.
◦ Furthermore, Minister Yun, assuming that the change in the Arctic is posing both challenges and opportunities at the same time, pointed out that the ROK government, through efforts to maintain “a balance between people and the environment,” will seek a sustainable development of the Arctic. He added that the Arctic carries special significance for the ROK as an important component of its Eurasia Initiative, a strategy to enhance connectivity in Eurasia through overland roads and sea routes.
3. The US, the host of the GLACIER meeting and the chair country of the Arctic Council, urged that awareness on the Arctic issue be raised in the US and the international community; and underscored the need for international cooperation in responding to climate change, which is having the most serious impact on the Arctic.
◦ In his opening remarks, Secretary Kerry, calling the Arctic issue one that is “important not just for the Arctic… (but) for the rest of this planet,” expressed “hope that the GLACIER is a stepping stone” to the success of the COP21 in Paris in December 2015.
◦ At the meeting’s closing ceremony, President Barack Obama of the US described global warming as “no longer a problem of the future, but rather a challenge for now,” emphasizing the need to address the issue with a sense of urgency.
4. The GLACIER conference came as the US, which had become the chair country of the Arctic Council in May, had invited the foreign ministers of the eight member countries and the twelve observer countries of the Arctic Council to the event to: (a) raise awareness on the climate chnage issue; (b) view the Arctic issue as one of the major global issues; and (c) seek Arctic-related priorities.
◦ The event brought together high-level figures from 20 countries, including the foreign ministers from eight countries -- the ROK, the US, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Iceland -- as well as the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.
5. The conference consisted of three sessions: (a) “The Arctic's Unique Role in Influencing the Global Climate,”; (b) “Building the Resilience of Arctic Coastal Communities in the Face of Climate Change”; and (c) “Protecting Communities and the Environment through Climate and Air Quality Projects.” As a result of the meeting, the participants adopted a Joint Statement on Climate Change and the Arctic, which contains the willingness of the participating countries to work together in addressing climate change in the Arctic.
6. Minister Yun, the ROK’s first-ever Foreign Minister to attend an international meeting on the Arctic, explained the ROK’s policy direction on the Arctic at the GLACIER conference. On the sidelines of the conference, he met bilaterally with US Secretary of State Kerry and the foreign ministers of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Iceland as well as the European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. In the respective bilateral meetings, the two sides discussed ways to step up substantive cooperation, including on the Arctic, at the bilateral level as well as ways to enhance cooperation on the international stage.
* unofficial translation