By Yun Byung-se,
I am truly privileged to address the prestigious German Atlantic Association. Just last November, at the Asia-Europe Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Luxembourg, I quoted Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling’s well-known quip, that “East is East, West is West, and never the two shall meet.” Naturally, I pointed out the sea change over the past century. We now live in a world where East and West, Asia and Europe, have not only met, but for all intents and purposes, are sailing on the same boat.
So, no wonder that last year, my number one destination was Europe, rather than Asia or the Americas. I visited Europe more than ten times, and this year again, my visit to Munich marks another good start. Korea is the EU’s strategic partner and NATO’s global partner. Korea and Europe enjoy robust cooperation across the board, in the political, security, economic and cultural fields. Indeed, Korea is the only country in the world to have signed three major agreements with the EU – the Framework Agreement, the Free Trade Agreement and the agreement on joint crisis management operations.
And my government is committed to fostering greater connectivity between Asia and Europe. That is why my government has been working on what we call the Eurasia Initiative, to link the two physically, digitally and culturally.
So, through so many different ways, Korea and Europe are becoming natural partners. This partnership is underpinned by the fact that we share not only common values and the historical experience of rising from the ruins of war, but also our respective alliance structures, which are evolving to further the peace and security of our regions and beyond. Let me expand on this in greater detail.
In Europe, for almost seven decades, NATO has been keeping the peace and security, and has safeguarded its prosperity. It is the greatest success story of collective defense in history. How? I believe that one of its greatest strengths has been its “ability to adapt,” like NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg recently mentioned.
And as the world has moved from the Cold War to the post-Cold War age of globalization, NATO’s stage has expanded from Europe to other regions, including Libya and Afghanistan. Its agenda now covers not only traditional security issues, but also non-traditional security issues such as WMD, terrorism, cyber security and anti-piracy. NATO is going beyond its traditional role of a regional, trans-Atlantic security organization and is assuming the role of a global security provider.
Such expanded role befits a world where geopolitical factors, such as Ukraine and Syria, and transnational agendas, from terrorism and violent extremism to refugee crises, cannot be contained in a particular region.
Indeed, we in Asia and Korea are hardly immune from the impact of developments elsewhere in the world. The influx of refugees into Europe has been in the headlines, but you may be surprised to hear that even in Korea, over a thousand Syrians have applied for refugee status. Moreover, the terrorist attacks in Jakarta last month by an ISIL-affiliated group demonstrate that there is no safe haven from the specter of terrorism and violent extremism.
So, more than ever before, crises and conflicts are becoming boundless and borderless.
However, I believe that such a complex and interconnected security environment is actually creating more space for NATO and Korea to maneuver together in many ways. In other words, after all we share the Eurasian continent, being connected at the eastern and western ends. So, let me elaborate on how we can work together.
First, just as NATO has contributed to the peace and security of post-war Europe, the Korea-U.S. alliance has been playing a pivotal role for peace and security in my part of the world. The Korea-U.S. alliance is a linchpin of the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific.
Moreover, NATO served as the security bulwark during the process of German reunification. Just as German reunification was instrumental in ushering in greater peace and prosperity in Europe, we in Korea have the vision of contributing more to the peace and prosperity of our part of the world and beyond through Korean unification.
Second, Korea and NATO are like-minded partners who share the core values of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. This means we have strong foundations to work together as global partners in addressing the challenges of our times.
Already, Korea was an active participant in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, and operated a Provincial Reconstruction Team from 2010 to 2014. For the past five years, we have been providing 500 million US dollars to support both the security and the socio-economic development of Afghanistan. Korea and NATO are also working hand in hand in other regions and on other issues as well, from tackling piracy in the Horn of Africa, to countering terrorism and violent extremism, and strengthening cyber security.
Third, NATO has been a steadfast and reliable partner in Korea’s efforts to build up trust in Northeast Asia. NATO ’s concept of “cooperative security” was a good source of inspiration for our Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative, or NAPCI for short. In Asia, there is a mismatch between its growing economic interdependence and its shortfall in political and security cooperation. This is what we call the “Asia paradox,” and what Dr. Chipman, who is here with us today, has fittingly described as “strategic unease.”
NAPCI is part of our efforts to overcome the Asia paradox. We in Korea are working to nurture trust and resolve the institutional deficiency of our region through NAPCI. Like NATO’s cooperative security, we too are reaching out to partners both within and beyond our region, including NATO, the EU and ASEAN.
At this moment, Northeast Asia is back in the headlines because of the latest developments you all know well. I would like to share my thoughts on the gravest threat to peace and security on the Korean peninsula and Northeast Asia posed by North Korea’s ongoing nuclear weapons and missile programs.
Last month, the international community witnessed two contrasting and diverging developments. On the sixth of January, North Korea conducted its fourth nuclear test of the past decade in spite of the repeated warnings from the international community. Just ten days later, the sixteenth of January, decade-long international sanctions were lifted as a result of the agreement between the E3+3 and Iran. These two events happened within just ten days, but what kind of effects will they have on Iran and North Korea, ten years down the line? All of us here today can imagine the huge differences.
The international community has condemned North Korea’s nuclear test in one voice. However, Pyongyang has flaunted its disregard and derision towards us all by launching a long-range missile just one month after its nuclear test under the disguise of a satellite. Pyongyang went on to reveal its intention to actually use its nuclear arsenal. North Korea’s leader recently stated that it will continue to increase the quality of its nuclear force so as to be capable of making nuclear strikes. These repeated provocations and its persistent defiance of the authority of the UN Security Council call into question its qualifications as a member of the UN.
At this very moment in New York, the members of the UN Security Council are discussing a new resolution to impose robust and comprehensive sanctions against North Korea. Just yesterday, I was in New York to confer with the members of the UN Security Council and the Secretary-General. My message was clear: Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons and missile programs are a clear and present danger to us all, and none of us are free from their destructive reach. As the organ with the primary responsibility to maintain international peace and security, the Security Council must take tough and effective sanctions. At the UN, I emphasized that this should be the “terminating resolution” to ensure that North Korea does not venture to conduct its fifth and sixth nuclear tests.
In addition to the Security Council, I believe that individual countries and international organizations can also play a crucial role. That’s why I have come here, as I wanted to meet our NATO and European partners to consult and formulate joint measures. And because we must face this challenge together.
First, this is because North Korea is an unprecedented serial offender, conducting four nuclear tests and launching six long-range missiles. It has used deception and non-compliance of UN Security Council resolutions for its nuclear weapons and missile programs. I am not aware of any other country that has been so repeatedly and consistently disregarding such UN resolutions. If we go on business-as-usual vis-à-vis North Korea’s repeated nuclear tests and its advancement of nuclear weapons and missile capabilities, including ICBMs and SLBMs, the entire world could fall prey to Pyongyang’s nuclear blackmail.
Second, North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs currently represent the greatest challenge to the global non- proliferation regime. North Korea is the only country to have conducted nuclear tests in this century, blatantly violating the Security Council’s resolutions. North Korea’s acts also run counter to NATO’s commitment to WMD non-proliferation.
Third, the rise of terrorism and violent extremism and the development of nuclear weapons by the unpredictable regime in Pyongyang could turn the nightmare scenario of nuclear terrorism a reality.
And last but not least, we should not forget that North Korea’s misguided pursuit of nuclear weapons also has a domestic price tag, and ordinary North Koreans are paying for it. The North Korean regime is ignoring their humanitarian plight and tramping down on their human rights. Indeed, the UN Commission of Inquiry’s report on North Korea’s human rights violations highlighted this very point.
So, North Korea’s ever advancing nuclear weapons and missile programs are an extraordinary threat which requires an extraordinary response. That’s why yesterday, my government made the difficult decision to completely shut down the Gaesong Industrial Complex. Now, I believe that it is time for the international community to show zero tolerance to North Korea’s unbridled provocations. Now is the time to put unbearable pain on Pyongyang so it will make the right strategic choice, as Iran has already done. Our NATO partners can play a pivotal role in that regard.
NATO has grown into more than a trans-Atlantic alliance; it is an essential contributor to international peace and security. The crucial role it plays reminds me of the words of Willy Brandt, quote, “peace, like freedom, is no original state which existed from the start; we shall have to make it, in the truest sense of the world,” unquote. His words are in line with our vision: to ease geopolitical tensions in Northeast Asia and achieve Korean unification, and thereby contribute to the peace and prosperity of Asia, Eurasia and beyond.
So, in this increasingly complex and uncertain international security landscape, I truly hope that Korea and NATO will work together to forge a sustainable partnership for the good of humankind.
South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se