A giant leap for world peace
DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Han Dong-Man (The Philippine Star) - May 2, 2018 - 12:00am

On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was heard on Earth saying these immortal words: “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” Nearly 50 years later, on April 27, 2018, President Moon Jae-in of the Republic of Korea and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walked over a military demarcation line that has separated the Korean Peninsula since 1953. Just like the moon landing, the two leaders took small steps, but a giant leap for world peace.

The two leaders, Moon and Kim, held an inter-Korean summit at the Peace House on the southern side of Panmunjeom located in the DMZ – the symbol of the two Koreas’ division – and announced their commitment to the “complete denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula in their joint Panmunjeom Declaration. As it is the first time that the two Koreas’ leaders have discussed denuclearization as the core issue of a summit, last Friday’s summit meeting is a very meaningful achievement not only for Koreans but for all citizens around the globe.

They also agreed to try to officially end the Korean War by signing a peace treaty. In 1953, no treaty of peace was actually signed, so the Korean Peninsula literally remained in a state of war. Recognizing that the two Koreas alone cannot formally end the Korean War – the armistice that ended hostilities in 1953 was signed by the United Nations Command on behalf of South Korea and the Chinese and North Korean militaries – Moon and Kim said they would “actively pursue trilateral meetings involving the two Koreas and the United States, or quadrilateral meetings involving the two Koreas, the United States and China.”

The two leaders agreed to hold talks on formally establishing a peace treaty and urgently resolve humanitarian issues of divided families, to work together to ease the sharp military tensions on the Korean peninsula beginning with a defense ministers’ meeting in May. They also agreed to establish an inter-Korean joint liaison office in Kaesong, North Korea.

It was only a few months ago that political tensions were escalating rapidly and even military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula looked likely. So when the two leaders signed the “Panmunjeom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula,” the world cheered and heaved a collective sigh of relief. Against that backdrop, as President Duterte mentioned, the world including the Philippines was relieved from the fear of nuclear and long range missiles which had triggered the tensions in the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

There is a long way to go before denuclearization as it was never made public exactly how and when it will be accomplished. That is why this inter-Korean summit meeting is a meaningful starting point in a journey toward denuclearization. The Korean government will cooperate with the United States in finding specific ways for complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement, which is the ultimate destination of denuclearization.

I wish the summit will serve as a turning point that will restart the economic cooperation between the two Koreas, bearing in mind that an economic approach is necessary to create a peaceful environment.

Without doubt, a great deal of trust and commitment must come into play in order to implement the Panmunjeom Declaration and achieve a true “era of peace.” Words must be paired with actions; otherwise, they will be mere empty promises that will dash the hopes of millions of peace-loving people. Now the great journey towards peace has been started. I sincerely hope that the coming summit meeting between the US and North Korea, and Moon’s next visit to Pyongyang this autumn will make another milestone that would take us one step closer to sustainable global peace.

When I met former President Fidel Ramos, a proud Filipino Korean War veteran, he wished for a peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula. I believe most Filipinos agree with him. I continue to ask the government and people of the Philippines to render their support for Korea’s role and achievements in making a nuclear-free peninsula and inter-Korea reconciliation and cooperation which will pave the way for a better security and economic environment for the regime and beyond.

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(Han Dong-man is the Ambassador of the Republic of Korea.)

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