In a “Singapore Lecture” during the final day of his state visit to Singapore on July 13, President Moon Jae-in outlined his vision for an inter-Korean economic community and peace on the Korean Peninsula. It could be seen as his second “vision for peace,” after the one he presented in the German capital of Berlin in July of last year. It is deeply significant that he shared this vision for a future of Korean peace and prosperity in the same place as the historic North Korea-US summit one month ago.
In many ways, President Moon’s Singapore Lecture stood in contrast with his Berlin vision a year ago. Where the focus of that vision was on getting North Korea to agree to dialogue as its antagonisms with the US reached an all-time low, the emphasis in the Singapore speech was on offering a post-denuclearization vision – reflecting the current opportunity for discussions on the issue created by the recent inter-Korean summits and North Korea-US summit. One can clearly sense his aim of reinforcing North Korea’s commitment to denuclearization by suggesting a future of inter-Korean economic cooperation and shared prosperity. We hope it will lead us that much faster to the day when Pyongyang actively responds to President Moon’s vision and joins in building a Korean Peninsula economic community.
It goes without saying that if the two sides are to move forward in drawing a new economic map and building an economic community, the current international sanctions against North Korea will need to be lifted. In those terms, it makes sense that President Moon would emphasize Pyongyang’s implementation of denuclearization as a kind of condition for lifting sanctions. If North Korea does intend to commit the kind of efforts toward economic development that President Moon described in his speech, it will need to be more proactive and concrete in stating its denuclearization plans. The US will also need to swiftly adopt comprehensive corresponding measures to enable Pyongyang to accelerate its denuclearization efforts.
Also noteworthy was President Moon’s call for an active role from ASEAN chair nation Singapore in promoting peace on the Korean Peninsula. In asking to Singapore to help usher North Korea into the international community and support its development into a “normal state,” he stressed the importance of embracing North Korea with a framework of South Korea-ASEAN cooperation and interchange.
The ASEAN Regional Forum is currently the only multilateral security forum North Korea is a member of; North Korea also engaged in economic cooperation with ASEAN before the sanctions against it were intensified. This means the groundwork is already in place for North Korea’s relationship with ASEAN to develop. South Korea’s government will need to play a more active role so that ASEAN is able to support North Korea in becoming part of the international community.
One especially noteworthy remark from President Moon came during the Q&A session after his speech, when he warned that the leaders of North Korea and the US would “face stern judgment before the international community if they fail to keep their own promises.”
The remark sent a message of pressure, reminding Pyongyang and Washington of their respective pledges of complete denuclearization and regime security guarantees and urging them to stay true to their word. Uncharacteristically strong in its wording, the message may be seen as necessary at the present moment, with no clear progress made since the North Korea-US summit. We hope Seoul will put its fullest efforts into promoting talks between Pyongyang and Washington so that President Moon’s “Singapore vision for peace” can come to fruition.
This editorial first appeared in the English edition of Hankyoreh on 14 July 2018