ARF chairman’s statement deviates from CVID language

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ARF chairman’s statement deviates from CVID language

The chairman’s statement from the Asean Regional Forum (ARF), a major regional security conference, released on Monday did not include the specific phrase “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” (CVID) of the Korean Peninsula, a break from the previous year.

Instead, it called for more general “complete denuclearization,” echoing the language used in the Panmunjom Declaration signed after the inter-Korean summit on April 27 and the joint statement signed in Singapore by the North Korean and U.S. leaders after their summit on June 12.

The statement was issued after the 25th ARF, which was held in Singapore on Saturday. The event brought together foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and other major regional players, including all the nations in the now defunct six-party talks on North Korea’s denuclearization.

In the statement, the chairman “welcomed” the summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as well as between Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump. The statement further called on North Korea “to fulfill its stated commitment to complete denuclearization and its pledge to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests.”

The ministers “reiterated their commitment to the full implementation of all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions and international efforts,” which will “contribute to peace and stability in the region,” the statement read. The sentence likely reflected remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who emphasized at the forum the need to continue tough sanctions on Pyongyang despite what he called ongoing progress in denuclearization talks.

“Some ministers expressed their readiness to engage in dialogue with the DPRK to resolve other outstanding issues, including humanitarian concerns,” the statement read, using the acronym for North Korea’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The ARF is the only regional security conference that North Korea participates in annually. Last year’s chairman’s statement, issued during the peak of Pyongyang’s provocations, read: “Some ministers reiterated their support for the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in a peaceful manner” and “called for the exercise of self-restraint.” It noted with “grave concern” the North’s nuclear tests and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches.

The initial draft of this year’s chairman’s statement likewise included the reference to CVID, but it was missing in the final version released Monday.

North Korea has avoided this terminology, and Pompeo recently coined the term “final, fully verified denuclearization” (FFVD), which he used during the Asean meetings. Pompeo has indicated that this term is essentially equivalent to the meaning of CVID.

Seoul likewise emphasized that the term “complete denuclearization” encompasses the verifiable and irreversible concepts. In a statement on Monday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the ARF chairman’s statement was an opportunity “to confirm the unified support of the international community for the complete and speedy implementation” of the outcomes of the inter-Korean and North-U.S. summits “and to welcome the progress in the situation on the Korean Peninsula in 2018.”

The ministry noted that while last year’s chairman’s statement focused on international concern over the North’s missile launches and ensuing tensions, this year’s statement was based on “welcoming” the progress since then and reflected a “positive evaluation.” It added that the South Korean government conveyed its position that it was “preferable” to use the terminology “complete denuclearization,” as it was used in the inter-Korean declaration and North-U.S. joint statement.

South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha, after attending the ARF, told reporters on Sunday that she had conveyed it was Seoul’s preference to use “complete denuclearization,” as expressed in the inter-Korean and North-U.S. summits. But she added, “Many ministers called for CVID, so it is likely that this would be included” in the chairman’s statement.

The statement is drafted by the ARF chair, in this case Singapore’s foreign minister, and does not require consent from all foreign ministers. However, it does need to reflect the positions of participating countries.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan on Monday said that he hosted North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho for dinner on Sunday evening. The two last met in June during the Kim-Trump summit.

The dinner could have been the occasion where Ri expressed the North’s opposition to the CVID terminology, and this may have affected the final draft of the chairman’s statement.

“We had a fascinating and candid exchange of views on developments in the DPRK and on the Korean Peninsula since the US-DPRK Summit in June,” Balakrishnan wrote on his Facebook page. “Singapore hopes that all the parties involved will continue their dialogue, and work towards eventual peace and complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

Balakrishnan added that Ri’s delegation would have a chance to “learn more about Singapore’s urban planning” and economic development during their continued stay there.

Statements from other ministerial meetings that took place in Singapore over the weekend - the East Asia Summit (EAS) and Asean-plus-three foreign ministerial meetings - included the CVID terminology.

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