President Moon Ponders over His Message at the UN as North Korea Continues Missile Provocations

Jung Dae-yeon 입력 2021. 9. 17. 18:18
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Minister of Unification Lee In-young meets with separated families at an event demonstrating a virtual reunion venue at the Korean Red Cross Seoul office in Jung-gu, Seoul on September 16. Yonhap News

Due to the recent string of missile tests by North Korea, President Moon is carefully thinking about what message he should send the North when he attends the United Nations (UN) General Assembly next week. Changes to the president’s keynote address seem inevitable at his last UN General Assembly as president. Originally, he had planned to emphasize the two Koreas working toward dialogue for peace on the Korean Peninsula.

President Moon will go on a five-day trip to New York in September 19-23 to attend the 76th UN General Assembly. Initially, the president was going to express his determination to continue efforts for dialogue and cooperation to improve inter-Korean relations and to establish peace on the Korean Peninsula, since this year marks the thirtieth anniversary of the two Koreas simultaneously joining the UN. President Moon had also planned to ask the international community to continue supporting the South Korean government’s efforts to completely denuclearize the peninsula and establish permanent peace. He was also going to appeal for solidarity and cooperation from the international community to overcome global crises, such as COVID-19 and climate change, and to achieve an inclusive recovery.

These plans were disrupted by North Korea’s recent test launches of a new long-range cruise missile and a short-range ballistic missile. On September 15, North Korea test launched a ballistic missile and only hours later, South Korea test launched a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM). President Moon observed the test launch of the SLBM and said, “We have sufficient deterrence to respond to North Korea’s provocations at any time.” Kim Yo-jong, a deputy director of the Workers’ Party of Korea, responded by releasing a statement condemning the president’s comment.

The president finds himself in a tight spot. He can’t urge North Korea to refrain from provocations with North Korea criticizing the South’s missile test. The North claims that the South “calls their actions a just act to support peace, while they call our actions an act that threatens peace.” But he can’t just keep talking about dialogue and cooperation, either. Cheongwadae said, “The speech will be revised up until the last minute,” suggesting that the details of the president’s keynote address at the UN General Assembly could partially change due to North Korea’s missile launches.

This day, a key Cheongwadae official said, “I will not particularly mention it,” referring to Kim Yo-jong’s statement. Cheongwadae believes there is still the possibility of North Korea resuming talks and is continuing its efforts to provide the conditions to make this possible. In the statement, Kim Yo-jong said, “We do not want that (the complete destruction of inter-Korean relations),” and left room for improvements in inter-Korean relations, and media inside North Korea did not deliver reports on Kim’s statement to North Korean citizens. Cheongwadae is focusing on this point. On September 15, President Moon received Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and asked China to play an active role in improving inter-Korean relations on the occasion of the Beijing Winter Olympic Games next year.

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