Outcome of Foreign Minister-Chaired Meeting on Situations on Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia

1. On January 16, Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se presided over a meeting on the situations on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, which brought together Ambassadors Kim Jang-soo to China, Lee Joon-gyu to Japan, Ahn Ho-young to the US, Cho Tae-yul to the UN, and Park Ro-byug to Russia, as well as other ranking officials of the Foreign Ministry. In the meeting that came after the one chaired by the acting President earlier in the day, the ranking diplomats discussed in detail and depth the situations in Northeast Asia and the Republic of Korea's pending issues and strategic roadmap.

2. In session I on "the changing situation in Northeast Asia and ways to cope with it," the ranking diplomats focused on what diplomatic measures the ROK should take to actively cope with the growing uncertainty in the region.

Minister Yun underscored the need for the Foreign Ministry headquarters and its overseas diplomatic missions to create synergistic effect in meeting diplomatic challenges in accordance with their shared strategy and roadmap. On that note, he suggested reviewing their action list and making efforts to turn the crisis into an opportunity.

The participants stressed that in order to further strengthen the ROK-US alliance during the tenure of the US administration to start on January 20, it is important to build on the outcome of consultations to date and put in full gear policy coordination efforts regarding the ROK-US alliance, nuclear and other issues of North Korea, economy and trade.

The high-level officials agreed to make robust efforts to engage in high-level exchanges, including a foreign ministerial meeting, as soon as possible upon the completion of the appointment confirmation process for minister-level and other government officials following the launch of the new administration in the US; and to increase across-the-board outreach activities toward not only ranking officials of the new administration but also those in the academia, Congress, and the business and military circles who have leverage over the new administration.

The participants drew a common understanding that despite the current challenges posed by the envisioned deployment of a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system to the ROK-China relations, it is of paramount importance for the ROK to uphold its principles in addressing diplomatic and security issues.

The diplomats agreed to communicate with China through various channels to minimize impact of the THAAD deployment on the ROK-China relations; and, in close cooperation with the ROK's diplomatic missions in China and other relevant government agencies, to draw up comprehensive, including mid- to long-term, measures to respond to diverse moves in China.

The officials shared the view that despite the current challenges to the tide of improvement in the ROK-Japan relations that had been facilitated by the bilateral agreement on the "comfort women" issue reached in 2015, the two countries should continue working together for their relations to move stably forward.

The participants drew a common understanding that not only the governments but also all the stakeholders of the ROK and Japan should work to move the bilateral relations forward in a future-oriented manner while respecting the purpose and spirit of the bilateral agreement.

The diplomats, taking note of the steady development of the ROK-Russia relations on the back of robust intergovernmental and private exchanges even amid the challenges in the international community, shared the view that it is important to move mutually beneficial cooperation forward, such as in the development of Russia's Far East and through an enhanced connectivity between the ROK's Eurasia Initiative and the Russia's new "Look East" policy, and thereby to advance the bilateral relationship in a stable manner.

The participants agreed that the ROK should seek synergistic effect from its diplomacy toward its four neighboring powers and the UN by efficiently implementing it; and further bolster its base of cooperation with the UN Security Council and Secretariat as well as its network of cooperation regarding the nuclear and human rights issues of North Korea.

Minister Yun noted that the current diplomatic and security situation in Northeast Asia is intertwined with domestic issues of individual countries in the region and structural changes in the international order, hence more grave and complicated than ever before. On that note, he emphasized that the ROK should meet such multiple, complex challenges by taking a multi-dimensional perspective and steps, including those that take into consideration bilateral relations with other countries in the region; the connectivity and coupling with other issues; relations between neighboring countries; and implications for the ROK.

The Minister asked the heads of the ROK's major overseas missions to do their best with a clear awareness and a sense of calling to allow no daylight in the ROK's foreign affairs amid diplomatic challenges. He suggested that, by doing so, they help block out crises and expand opportunities.

3. Session II on "an outlook on the North Korean situation in 2017 and all-out diplomacy aimed at the resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue" covered possible further provocations and other such moves by North Korea; and ways to continue cooperation with neighboring countries in enforcing tough sanctions and putting pressure on North Korea in a bid to lead the North onto the path toward denuclearization.

In his remarks, Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs Kim Hong-kyun, calling the year 2017 a possible watershed in terms of the North Korean nuclear issue, noted that as officials in President-elect Trump's camp had recently sent a tough message to North Korea based on their sense of gravity and urgency regarding the North's nuclear issue, the ROK and the US are expected to remain in close coordination in addressing North Korean issues. He brought renewed attention to the fact that North Korea has lately been elevating the level of threats of provocation after explicitly expressing in its new year's address its intention to advance nuclear and missile capabilities. On that note, he underscored the importance of maintaining the ROK and the US-led coordination and strategic communication with neighboring countries, with pressure on the North Korea in place all the while, in order to make North Korea change its strategic calculus.

The Ambassadors, citing the strong message sent by officials in the Trump camp to North Korea, shared the view that the US policy toward the North Korea would remain unchanged during the tenure of the incoming administration. They agreed to make stronger efforts to remain in close coordination with the US and Japan and to induce China and Russia to play constructive role for the resolution of nuclear and other issues of North Korea.

Minister Yun mentioned that the ROK should step up strategic communication with neighboring countries and cooperation with the rest of the international community in a bid to further strengthen the unprecedented cooperative regime the ROK had built with the international community in 2016. He asked the Ambassadors to the US, the UN and others to double their efforts for this strongest-ever cooperative regime on North Korean issues built with the Obama administration to be further bolstered during the Trump administration.

The Minister asked the mission chiefs to make efforts for high-level meetings with relevant countries, such as an ROK-US foreign ministerial meeting, to take place as soon as possible after the inauguration of the Trump administration.

4. The meeting is seen to have served as a very timely and useful opportunity for the Foreign Ministry headquarters and diplomatic missions to major countries to seek the way forward for the ROK's diplomacy amid the rapidly changing situation in Northeast Asia of late.

The Foreign Ministry will build on the outcome of the meeting and do its utmost to actively and swiftly deal with various opportunities and challenges facing the ROK.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs Republic of Korea

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