글쓴이 : 관리자 작성일 : 2021-06-25
|(2nd LD) Unification minister hopes big trend changing despite N.K. rejection of U.S. dialogue offer|
(ATTN: RECASTS headline, first 10 paras with unification minister's speech)
SEOUL, June 25 (Yonhap) -- Despite North Korea's outright rejection of a U.S. dialogue offer, the overall trend appears to be moving toward dialogue, Unification Minister Lee in-Young said Friday, holding on to hopes that Pyongyang will ultimately return to talks.
In his keynote speech at an annual peace forum co-hosted by his ministry and Yonhap News Agency, Lee called for the resumption of long-stalled dialogue with North Korea at an early date, saying that a longer stalemate could lead to heightening tensions in the region.
"Chairman Kim Jong-un hinted at the possibility of dialogue and showed a more flexible stance than before by making mention of stable control of situations on the Korean Peninsula and talks during the third plenary meeting of the Workers' Party last week," Lee said.
"Despite the statements recently issued by vice department director Kim Yo-jong and Foreign Minister Ri Son-gwon, the overall big trend appears to be changing at a slow pace though it is still too early to predict," he added.
On Wednesday night, North Korean Foreign Minister Ri issued a statement, saying that his country is not considering "even the possibility of any contact with the U.S." A day earlier, Kim Yo-jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said that the U.S. has "wrong" expectations for dialogue with Pyongyang.
The back-to-back statements came right after U.S. nuclear envoy Sung Kim said in Seoul that Washington has offered to meet with the North "anywhere, anytime without preconditions" and looks forward to Pyongyang responding positively to the overtures.
Last week, North Korean leader Kim urged his country to be ready for both dialogue and confrontation with the U.S. and called for concentrating efforts on taking stable control of the situation on the peninsula, raising cautious optimism that Pyongyang might be gearing up for nuclear talks.
This year's peace forum was held under the main theme of "The future of the Korean Peninsula in the Biden era and intensifying U.S.-China competition for hegemony."
With regard to the deepening rivalry between Washington and Beijing, Lee said that South Korea needs to work hard to convince them that tensions on the Korean Peninsula are not desirable for both of them and the peace progress here must be a "realm of constructive cooperation."
Cho Sung-boo, president and CEO of Yonhap, also weighed in on the rising tensions between the U.S. and China in his opening remarks at the forum.
"The heightening tension between the U.S. and China is a big diplomatic dilemma for South Korea, which maintains close relations with the two countries in regional security, business, trade and others," Cho said.
"Yonhap News Agency, as a representative news agency, promises again to make efforts to bring lasting peace not only to the Korean Peninsula but also in the Asia-Pacific region," he said.
Prime Minister Kim Boo-kyum, who presented a congratulatory message via a video clip, said positive conditions have been set recently for the resumption of the Korean peace process.
"We will push ahead with inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation against COVID-19, including vaccines, and begin with small but trust-building tasks, such as the video reunions of separated families," he said in the speech.
"South Korea will further strengthen its comprehensive strategic alliance with the U.S. that advances democratic human rights and multilateralism, and make efforts to elevate the strategic cooperative partnership with China to a new level," he added.
The forum is divided into two comprehensive sessions.
In the first session, participants explored ways for peace and coexistence in the Asia-Pacific region. Lee Kwang-jae, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, and Rep. Park Jin of the People Power Party joined the session to discuss strategies South Korea should take amid the heightened Sino-U.S. rivalry
U.S. lawmakers, including Korean American congressman Andy Kim (D-NJ) and Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA), also discussed the importance of the South Korea-U.S. alliance in the age of growing competition between Washington and Beijing.
Bera stressed the importance of working through multilateral coalitions that can ultimately lead to China's participation, noting South Korea's participation in the recent Group of Seven summit.
"If we can create those types of multilateral coalitions, I think we can create a framework by which it is not about China, but it is about the values we share as similar countries," he said. "My hope would be that at some time China would want to be part of coalitions like that."
Unification Minister Lee In-young is set to deliver a keynote speech at the forum to take place at the Lotte Hotel.
The second session will address ways for Seoul to cooperate with Pyongyang and Beijing, as well as the trilateral cooperation among South Korea, the U.S. and Japan.
Cheong Seong-chang, director of the Center for North Korean Studies at the Sejong Institute, will deliver a presentation on possible diplomatic moves South Korea could take to drive inter-Korean relations forward.
The session will also be attended by other scholars, including Kim Han-kwon, a professor of the foreign ministry-affiliated Korea National Diplomatic Academy, and Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University.
Due to the new coronavirus, organizers have kept the number of participants to a minimum. The forum is being streamed live at its website (https://www.onekorea2021.co.kr).