The DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho has just addressed the United Nations after what has been a landmark year since the 72nd opening debate of the UN General Assembly. The tone of Ri’s speech could not have been more different from last year. Whereas last year Ri promised that the DPRK’s rockets would visit US soil as a result of Donald Trump’s speech where he threatened to “destroy” the North Korea, this year’s speech emphasised an unflinching and total commitment to Korean de-nuclearisation.
Ri spoke of his nation’s desire to turn the Korean peninsula from the world’s most conflict prone area to a “cradle of international peace and prosperity”. However, he stated that while it is in the interests of Pyongyang, Washington and the wider world to implement the letter and spirit of the Singapore declaration made between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump as well as the Panmunjom declaration made between Kim Jong-un and his southern counterpart Moon Jae-in, further trust between the DPRK and United States must be built in order for these positive proposals to be rapidly implemented.
While during his address in 2017 Ri Yong-ho rhetorically lacerated Donald Trump calling him “a mentally deranged person full of megalomania and complacency, the person who is chastised even by American people as ‘Commander in Grief’, Lyin’ King’, ‘President Evil”, this year Ri stated that retarding the progress of the Korean peace process is a cynical objective of Trump’s domestic political opposition (the Democratic party of the United States) who are obsessed with sabotaging the peace process by questioning Pyongyang’s sincerity even though if one wanted to examine the history of the last half century, it was the US that had committed acts of violence against north east Asia while Korea did not “throw a pebble” at the United States.
Ri also stated that the UN should formally endorse the Korean peace process and collectively encourage the US to begin a symbiotic process of lowering sanctions in line with the continued process of de-nuclearisation. In this sense, the DPRK has once again laid out its position in the peace process as it currently stands. It can be defined in the following way:
–The DPRK’s commitment to full, verifiable and non-reversible de-nuclearisation is absolute
–The DPRK fraternally calls upon Seoul to continue building a new era of peace and inter-state cooperation in Korea
–The DPRK admonishes the US political opposition for continuing to sow distrust and in so doing disrupting the peace process
–The DPRK seeks a global commitment to ease economic sanctions simultaneous to the peace process as opposed to the current US position of holding off on any sanctions relief until de-nuclearisation is complete (as defined by Washington).
In addition to effectively shielding the seemingly pro-peace (in respect of Korea) Trump from criticisms levelled at other elements of the US government and so-called “deep state”, Ri Yong-ho’s statement also provided a veiled indication that should power change in the United States over the course of future elections, the peace process itself could be in jeopardy unless future US rulers embrace the kind of unwavering support for Korean peace that is currently being met with universal applause in respect of governments throughout the world, including among the DPRK’s Chinese and Russian neighbours.
It remains to be seen whether Ri will meet with any major US officials while in New York, but as the speech indicated, Pyongyang is eager to reap the economic benefits of a more open economy. This was made explicitly clear in the section of the speech where Ri outlined Pyongyang’s intentions for transforming an atmosphere of distrust into one of shared economic opportunity while the devotion of a substantial portion of the speech to Kim Jong-un’s domestic economic reforms which are intended to be coupled with an outward opening of the economy, made it all the more clear that Pyongyang is not only embracing peace but wants to literally open up for business with the outside world at an historically unprecedented level.
While the statement can be read as one which defies the US to make good on its existing pledges as well as to expedite the spirit of these pledges in a positive way so as to accelerate an atmosphere of economic openness in Korea, the statement could also be read as an indication that because Pyongyang is tying its security and economic concerns in with one another, not only is the DPRK completely sincere in its desire for permanent peace but that the country also seeks to fulfil its commitments as soon as the leadership is confident that others will fulfil the economic portion of their commitments towards the DPRK. Thus, while the speech did offer criticism to the US, taken in totality, it was one of positive encouragement for its new found dialogue partner in a difficult but utterly necessary peace process.
In this sense, Ri’s speech ought to offer both encouragement and validation to those throughout the world seeking to aid the peace process from both the perspective of economic engagement and constructive de-militarisation.
Below is the full statement by the DPRK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho to the 73rd opening of the UN General Assembly:
First of all, allow me to congratulate Your Excellency Maria Fernanda ESPINOSA
GARCES on your election as the President of the session of the UN General Assembly.
1 look forward to successful outcome of the UNGA under your able stewardship.
Peace and development is a common desire of our times and it constitutes the main
objective of the UN defining all its activities. Many countries around the world concentrate their efforts on achieving peace and development but such efforts are still faced with serious challenges.
During the past 1 year we have been witnessing the overall international relations
becoming tense with peace being threatened and development being deterred in many
parts of the world due to the power-does-it-all attitude of unilateralism and such a situation requires even more enhanced role of the UN.
It is the Korean peninsula, where the most tangible trend of peace and development was newly created this year.
In April this year. Comrade Kim Jong Un, the chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) put forward a new strategic line of concentrating all efforts on the socialist economic construction.
Since we have sufficiently consolidated national defense capabilities and war
deterrence to cope with the nuclear threats against the DPRK that have been lasting over several decades, concentrating all efforts on economic construction has come up to us as a historic task.
The DPRK government’s policy line of focusing on the economy requires peaceful
environment above anything else.
Comrade Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted energetic summit-level diplomatic
activities with a firm determination to turn the Korean peninsula into a land of peace free of both nuclear weapons and nuclear threats; and made an important breakthrough in improving the North-South relations and the DPRK-U.S. relations and in revitalizing the friendly and cooperative relations with neighboring countries and thus made a turning point for dramatic easing of tension in the Korean peninsula.
As much as we have achieved in easing of tension in the Korean peninsula and its
region, the peace and security of the region will be consolidated and this will lead to the world peace and security, to the benefits of all the member states of the UN in other words.
The fact that representatives of numerous countries have been unanimous in supporting and welcoming the current direction of the developments in the Korean peninsula at this platform clearly shows that the DPRK government’s strategic choice and its sincere efforts to pursue that choice fully concur with the common interest and desire of the international community.
The key to consolidating the peace and security in the Korean peninsula is to
thoroughly implement the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement adopted in June at the historic
DPRK-U.S. summit in Singapore.
The DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement contains all principled issues regarding eventual
solutions of the issues in the Korean peninsula such as terminating decades-long hostility between the two countries and establishing new DPRK-U.S. relations, building solid peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, realizing complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and humanitarian work between the two countries.
Once the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement is implemented, the current trend towards detente will turn into durable peace and the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula will also be achieved and the Korean peninsula, the hottest spot in the globe, will become the cradle of peace and prosperity that contributes to security in Asia and the rest of the world.
The DPRK government’s commitment to thorough implementation of the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement is unwavering.
The primary task for effectively implementing the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement should be bringing down the barrier of mistrust between the two countries which has existed for several decades; and to this end, the DPRK and the U.S. should spend many efforts to building trust above all.
All the past process for the implementation of previous agreements from various
dialogues and negotiations between the DPRK and the U.S. ended in failure because the mistrust between the two was not sufficiently removed resulting in lack of confidence.
It is our position that the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula should also be
realized along with building peace regime under the principle of simultaneous actions, step by step, starting with what we can do and giving priority to trust-building.
Out of the desire and resolute determination to successfully implement the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement, the DPRK government gives particular attention to trust-building and is pouring primary efforts to this.
Even before the DPRK-U.S. summit, the DPRK government took significant good-will measures such as stopping nuclear and ICBM tests, dismantling the nuclear test site in a transparent manner and affirming not to transfer nuclear weapons and nuclear technology under any circumstances and it continues to put in efforts to trust-building. However, we do not see any corresponding response from the U.S.
On the contrary, instead of addressing our concern for the absence of peace regime in
the Korean peninsula, the U.S. insists on the “denuclearization-first” and increases the level of pressure by sanctions to achieve their purpose in a coercive manner, and even objecting the ‘declaration of the end of war’.
The perception that sanctions can bring us on our knees is a pipe-dream of the people who are ignorant about us. But the problem is that the continued sanctions are deepening our mistrust.
The reason behind the recent deadlock is because the U.S. relies on coercive methods which are lethal to trust-building.
The recent dramatic improvement of the North-South relations and the atmosphere of cooperation clearly show how decisive the role of trust-building can be.
In less than 5 months, the leaders of the North and the South met 3 times and through
their meetings and talks they have been building trust in each other enough for solving the various issues in the North-South relations in a constructive manner and the tangible results are shown in reality.
As demonstrated by the “September Pyongyang joint Declaration” that was jointly
announced by the leaders of the North and the South on September 19, this year the
dialogues between the North and South in many areas including the fields of politics,
military, humanitarian work, sports, culture and economic cooperation are very active and atmosphere of reconciliation and cooperation has been high like never before and many noteworthy outcomes are being made one after another enjoying the support and welcome by the entire Korean nation and the international community.
If the party to this issue of denuclearization were south Korea and not the U.S., the
denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula would not have come to such a deadlock.
This is why we give great importance to building confidence between the DPRK and the U.S. for the implementation of the Joint Statement. Without any trust in the U.S. there will be no confidence in our national security and under such circumstances there is no way we will unilaterally disarm ourselves first.
The DPRK government’s commitment to the denuclearization is solid and firm.
However, it is only possible if the U.S. secures our sufficient trust towards the U.S.
There are pessimistic views towards the implementation of the DPRK-U.S. Joint
Statement inside the U.S., and that is not because there is any flaw in the Joint Statement but because of the U.S. domestic politics.
Those in the political opposition in the U.S. make it their daily business to slander the
DPRK claiming that we cannot be trusted with the sole purpose of attacking their political opponent and they are enforcing the administration to make unreasonable unilateral demand to our side thereby impeding the smooth progress of the dialogue and negotiations.
Creating mistrust towards the dialogue partner while only relying on coercive method
is not helpful at all in building trust; on the contrary it only increases mistrust. Talking
about reasons for distrusting each other, we have far more reasons to distrust the U.S.
The U.S. possessed nuclear weapons earlier than we did and the U.S. is the only country that actually used them in real war.
From the very first day of our Republic 70 years ago the U.S. has exercised hostile policy against our country and put complete economic blockade against our country making sure that the U.S. enterprises cannot even trade a single screw nail with our country. We did not even throw a pebble stone at the U.S. soil but during the Korean War the U.S. threatened to drop tens of atomic bombs in our country, and even after that the U.S. kept bringing in strategic nuclear arsenals at our door steps. If the both countries harbor mistrust towards each other, being obsessed with the past, then the recent DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement cannot escape the same fate of failure as all the previous agreements between the two countries.
One part of the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit in Singapore is to free ourselves of old conventional way and trying a completely new way of solving the issues. At this critical juncture, the U.S. should make a foresighted judgment that faithful
fulfillment of the commitment it made in Singapore will, in the end, be in the best national interest of the U.S. and should maintain new method for solving the DPRK-U.S. relations.
Only then there will be a positive prospect for the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement.
If the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement becomes a victim of the domestic politics of the U.S., then the greatest victim of the subsequent unpredictable consequences will be the U.S. itself as a whole.
Solving the DPRK-U.S. relations and issues in the Korean peninsula is the key topic in achieving theme of this session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: Global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies”.
Our new policy line of concentrating all efforts on the economic construction is the
right political choice not only in improving our people’s life but also in realizing the
common desire of the people around the world aspiring after peace and development.
The international society should support and encourage our efforts to focus on the
economic construction in response to the bold decisions and good-will measures we have taken for the easing of tension and maintaining durable peace in the Korean peninsula. The implementation of the DPRK-U.S. Joint Statement is a shared responsibility of the DPRK and the U.S.; at the same time the UN also has a role to play in it. The UN Security Council that was once so eager to express “concern” to the tense situation in the Korean peninsula keeps silence even now about the precious momentum for peace in the Korean peninsula which has been achieved this year; this cannot be said as normal in any way.
The UNSC poured down on us numerous “sanctions resolutions” making issue of our nuclear tests and rocket test launches. But even today, when one whole year has passed since such tests have been stopped, even a word in those “resolutions” remains unchanged to say nothing about being totally removed or eased.
Worse still, the UNSC is taking very concerning stand by rejecting the proposal by some of its member states to issue presidential statement that welcomes the DPRK-U.S. summit and the Joint Statement.
The ‘UN Command’ in south Korea even showed alarming signs of hindering the
implementation of the Panmunjom Declaration between the north and south.
As for the “UN Command”, it is merely a “command of allied forces” beyond the control of the UN that only obeys the orders of the U.S., but the problem is that it is still misusing the sacred name of the UN.
Based on the mission of the UN as defined in the UN Charter, the UN and especially the UNSC have the responsibility and duty to support and welcome the developments that are helpful in ensuring international peace and security.
The UN should really apply the theme of this session: ‘Making the United Nations
relevant to all people: Global leadership and shared responsibilities” to its actual activities and hence get rid of the stigma that ‘UNSC equals U.S.’ as early as possible.