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Immediate global efforts needed to curb NK’s nuclear ambition: Seoul official

By Ji Da-gyum

Published : Oct. 18, 2023 - 16:11

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South Korea's Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul (left) and Japanese Vice Minister of Defense for International Affairs Kiyoshi Serizawa hold hands during the bilateral talks held on Wednesday on the sidelines of Seoul Defense Dialogue 2023. (Ministry of National Defense) South Korea's Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul (left) and Japanese Vice Minister of Defense for International Affairs Kiyoshi Serizawa hold hands during the bilateral talks held on Wednesday on the sidelines of Seoul Defense Dialogue 2023. (Ministry of National Defense)

South Korea's vice defense chief called for immediate international cooperation to curb North Korea's nuclear weapon development, emphasizing that insufficient efforts could lead to a catastrophic outcome.

"North Korea's nuclear capabilities are rapidly advancing, and without immediate efforts from the international community to prevent it, this has the potential to turn into a catastrophe for the international community," Vice Defense Minister Shin Beom-chul said Wednesday at the three-day Seoul Defense Dialogue 2023.

Shin emphasized that North Korea's existing nuclear capabilities have left the international community no choice but to acknowledge the failure to achieve denuclearization, during the annual defense and security forum hosted by the Ministry of National Defense that began Tuesday with the main theme of "cooperation and solidarity for freedom, peace and prosperity."

"Delving into the root causes, multiple factors may contribute to the failure," Shin told participants at the plenary session on escalated North Korean nuclear threats and the international community response.

"But I fundamentally assess that the resolve of the international community and South Korea to attain North Korean denuclearization falls short in contrast to the Kim Jong-un regime's determination to acquire nuclear weapons."

Shin said that this determination shows the reality that the nuclear buildup is a "matter of life or death for the Kim Jong-un regime."

"The Kim Jong-un regime in North Korea has prioritized the development of nuclear weapons, neglecting the welfare of its people and their well-being, all in the pursuit of ensuring the regime's survival."

Shin also notably held both previous liberal and conservative South Korean governments accountable, emphasizing that they, at times, failed to recognize this unwavering determination by publicly saying that North Korea was committed to denuclearization.

The outgoing vice defense minister also raised the necessity of reevaluating whether "previous South Korean governments, which vigorously pursued North Korea's denuclearization, truly exhibited a resolute determination to advocate for denuclearization, even taking on the possibility of armed conflicts, diplomatic disputes, and serious confrontations with North Korea."

Shin went on to say, "The international community also, in my view, should reflect on this."

Countries that played a leading role -- South Korea, the United States and other six-party talk partners Japan, Russia and China -- all need to reflect on the extent of their efforts and risk-taking in the pursuit of North Korean denuclearization, he asserted.

Shin also emphasized that the current Yoon Suk Yeol government "should take more robust measures to take the lead in achieving North Korean denuclearization."

"Recognizing the current level of effort as insufficient, I hope the international community will respond adequately when South Korea seeks to intensify pressure on North Korea or request increased support."

The international community's collective efforts are crucial to altering the Kim Jong-un regime's "strategic calculus" that relies on nuclear weapons for regime security and asserting dominance on the Korean Peninsula.

"And we must instill the strategic perception that using a nuclear weapon would inevitably result in one's own doomsday," Shin said.

"Conveying a unified message, not only from the Republic of Korea, the US, and Japan, but also from China and Russia — countries upon which North Korea is willing to rely — will enhance the probability of North Korea adopting this strategic perception."

Echoing the view, newly appointed Defense Minister Shin Won-sik, in his opening speech, called for "active attention and cooperation from the international community to achieve North Korean denuclearization."

"To halt North Korea's illicit nuclear development, international cooperation through multilateral forums is crucial," the defense chief said. "It is imperative to make it clear that North Korea stands to gain nothing from its nuclear pursuits and will only find itself more isolated in the international community."

This year's 12th edition of the Seoul Security Dialogue saw the participation of around 800 attendees, including the defense ministers of Australia and Malaysia, representing 56 countries and two international organizations.