Yoon Suk-yeol debuts on international stage with NATO speech
Yoon marked his formal debut on the international stage with a three-minute address at a closed-door session of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and partner countries in Madrid.
"In order to lead North Korea down the path of denuclearization, we must clearly show that the international community's will to denuclearize the North is stronger than their reckless will to develop nuclear weapons and missiles programs," Yoon was quoted as saying by his presidential official.
Yoon stressed that the North's nuclear and missile programs are a clear violation of UN Security Council resolutions and a serious challenge to peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the world.
Yoon spoke seventh, between the British and U.S. leaders. He is the first Korean president to make an address at a NATO summit. The 30-member NATO invited four Asia-Pacific partners — South Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand — to take part in this year's summit hosted by Spain.
In his speech, Yoon said, "Today, the international community is facing complex security threats that cannot be resolved by a single country."
Yoon stressed South Korea's role in cooperating with NATO in safeguarding "universal values." He noted that South Korea and NATO have developed security cooperation after establishing a global partnership in 2006.
Yoon said he looks forward to cooperation in economic security with NATO countries, especially in emerging technological fields such as economic security, health and cybersecurity.
Yoon said, "There is a movement that denies the universal values we have protected," appearing to refer to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
"Freedom and peace are guaranteed through solidarity with the international community," he added.
During the summit, NATO leaders adopted a new strategic concept meant as a blueprint of the military alliance's priorities for the next 10 years, which targets rising threats from Russia and China. The concept states that Russia poses "the most significant and direct threat" to the alliance's security and says that China's "coercive policies" challenge its "interests, security and values."
South Korea's participation in the NATO Summit is seen as its tacit endorsement of NATO's direction regarding Russia and China.
Yoon referred to the new strategic concept and said he hopes cooperation with NATO will become a cornerstone of values-based solidarity.
Speaking to reporters ahead of the leaders' session, Yoon said, "The time has come for close mutual cooperation between the Indo-Pacific region and NATO."
Korea has pledged $100 million in humanitarian assistance to Ukraine.
When asked if there had been any discussions about "containing" China in Yoon's meetings, a senior presidential official told reporters Wednesday, "Although he did not specifically mention China, all speeches by NATO allies, including at the Korea-U.S.-Japan summit, stressed that China must play a responsible role and that all international relations should be conducted while respecting universal values and norms and agreements of the international community."
Yoon has been on a five-day trip to Spain since Monday, his first overseas trip since taking office. A series of bilateral and multilateral talks on the sidelines of the NATO gathering focused on security issues and economic cooperation.
Yoon, a former prosecutor, met with leaders of Australia, the Netherlands, Denmark, Poland, France, Britain, Canada and the Czech Republic.
On Wednesday, Yoon had a summit with Polish President Andrzej Duda that highlighted the countries' cooperation in infrastructure, energy and defense.
Yoon asked Duda to take a special interest in some 300 Korean companies in Poland. He also expressed hopes for cooperation between the two countries on the construction of a new airport in Poland.
The two leaders said they will look for ways to cooperate on nuclear power and liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers as part of efforts to achieve carbon neutrality.
In talks with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen on the same day, Yoon discussed energy and environmental cooperation.
Yoon and French President Emmanuel Macron focused on promoting cooperation in the nuclear power and space industries. According to the presidential office, the two leaders recognized the importance of nuclear power generation in order to realize carbon neutrality.
Yoon, accompanied by first lady Kim Keon-hee, had a dinner with around 100 Korean residents in Spain on Wednesday evening. He was scheduled for a luncheon with businesspeople on Thursday. Yoon was set to wrap up the trip with a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg Thursday afternoon.
Yoon was set to return to Seoul Friday.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]