South Korea's Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Monday expressed hopes that this week's summit between the United States and North Korea will mark "another important milestone" in the ongoing efforts for lasting peace on the peninsula.
Speaking at a disarmament conference in Geneva, Switzerland, Kang also reiterated that Seoul will fully enforce international sanctions "until we are assured that we are firmly and irrevocably on our way toward complete denuclearization."
U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un are set for their second meeting in Hanoi on Wednesday and Thursday with a focus on fleshing out Pyongyang's denuclearization steps in return for Washington's corresponding measures.
"We expect it to be another important milestone in our efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and establish permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula," Kang said at the Conference on Disarmament (CD).
"We look forward to tangible and substantial results coming out of this meeting," she added.
Apparently mindful of concerns that Seoul's push for a flurry of inter-Korean cooperation projects could weaken the international sanctions regime, the minister said that her government will pursue them "in faithful adherence to the Security Council sanctions."
Recalling her speech a year ago, Kang noted a positive change in her remarks.
"An epicenter of global instability for many decades, the Korean Peninsula has changed course and become a source of hope," Kang said.
"If my remark on the DPRK last year at the CD expressed 'cautious hope,' this year, I am glad to say that I bring a message of 'progress and expectation,'" she added. DPRK stands for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Hopes have been growing that following the Hanoi summit, Pyongyang will take some concrete steps toward its disarmament, such as dismantling its mainstay nuclear complex in Yongbyon, 90 kilometers north of Pyongyang.
In return for the steps, the communist state wants corresponding U.S. measures that may include partial sanctions relief and the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War, which closed only with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Later in the day, Kang delivered a speech at a high-level session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. There, she suggested that lasting peace on the peninsula will help improve human rights in the North.
"Human rights cannot thrive in the absence of peace, and peace is fragile at best where human rights are ignored. The process to build a nuclear-free, peaceful Korean Peninsula has just started," she said.
"Progress will require sustained focus and will, patience and wisdom on the part of all parties. But the reward will be enormous: peaceful coexistence where the human rights situation in North Korea will improve and all of the Korean people will be able to seek prosperous lives without the fear of war," she added.
Noting the recent death of Kim Bok-dong, a South Korean victim of Japan's wartime sexual slavery, Kang touched on such victims' longstanding agony.
"Now, only 23 registered survivors remain, all in their late 80s and early 90s," she said. "The knowledge that they are departing from us without having their lifelong pain fully addressed is sad and deeply frustrating."
The minister underscored Seoul's "victim-centered" approach to supporting the surviving victims.
"We are also honoring them by ensuring that their stories are not lost and current and future generations learn from their experience, and (by) strengthening our contribution to the global women, peace and security agenda," she said.
Kim Su-a email@example.com
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