Yun urges North to follow Vietnam

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Yun urges North to follow Vietnam

Minister of Foreign Affairs Yun Byung-se urged North Korea to take on a path of reform and liberalization in an international conference in Seoul yesterday, emphasizing that a “continuation of the status quo on the Korean Peninsula will serve nobody’s interests in East Asia.”

Yun made the remarks at a speech at an international conference on “Korea’s Vision for Unification and the Future of East Asia,” hosted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the East Asia Institute at the Westin Chosun Hotel in central Seoul.

Yun, who returned from a trip to Myanmar last week, the first by a Korean foreign minister in 31 years, said that the country, “which opted for seclusion for a long time, is now on the course of what is called ‘Myanmar’s Way,’” its name for a series of reforms that are underway there.

It is time for North Korea to “follow the path of Myanmar and Vietnam,” he said. “The sooner North Korea makes that kind of strategic decision, the better.”

However, the biggest hurdle will be North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Yun said South Korea has “engaged in a coercive diplomacy among the international community to dissuade North Korea from conducting its fourth nuclear test and to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs.”

He also said a “Cold War mentality will lead nowhere” among North Korea’s neighboring countries.

“A common security concern in East Asia should not be a political game or become hostage to bilateral conflicts,” he added.

“Any nation that may wish to compromise the cause of peace for the sake of domestic politics will run the risk of losing a more serious bet it has arduously made.”

He noted that this year marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending nearly four decades of the Cold War, and also is the centennial of the outbreak of World War I.

He said that Germany’s experience could lend “valuable insights for Korea’s unification strategy,” as outlined in President Park Geun-hye’s speech in Dresden, the symbolic city of German unification, in March when she highlighted three key elements of unification: the agenda for humanity, co-prosperity and integration.

“It should be clear by now that unification of the Korean Peninsula will reduce political conflict in Northeast Asia and present unimaginable economic opportunities,” said Yun.

An international group of scholars and experts spoke at the conference yesterday, including Peter Beck, the Korea representative of the Asia Foundation, Jin Canrong, professor of international studies at Renmin University of China, and Hitoshi Tanaka, former Japanese deputy minister of foreign affairs and chairman of the Institute for International Strategy at the Japan Research Institute.

Lee Sook-jong, president of the East Asia Institute, a Seoul-based think tank founded in 2002, said the German example demonstrates that close dialogue is “crucial in devising a medium to long-term strategy that encourages North Korea to change and follow a path toward peaceful unification.”

Hanns Gunther Hilpert, senior associate at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, pointed to striking similarities between the Korean and German situations, such as their crucial geostrategic location, the development of capitalistic versus socialistic systems and the role of international security.

However, differences in the scenarios include the security issues such as the enduring legacy of the Korean War (1950-53) compared to the end of the Cold War in Europe.

He pointed out many obstacles in the Korean unification process that he concluded would be “more difficult, more protracted and more tension-filled.”

Alexander Fedorovskiy, head of pacific studies at the Institute of World Economy and International Relations, said Moscow plans to “intensify political, security, economic and humanitarian exchanges with East Asia,” which is “a new stage of Russia’s long-run strategy to rebalance national foreign and economic policy in favor of East Asia.”

“A unified Korea will be among Russia’s most prominent economic partners,” he added, “as a unified Korea gives Russia a chance to diversify regional foreign economic relations, through the realization of infrastructure projects, logistic and communications networks and joint projects in the modernization of the North.”

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