H.E. Mr. Yoon Young-kwan
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Republic of Korea

the 58th Session
of the United Nations General Assembly

25 September 2003
New York

Mr. President,

I would like first to extend my heartiest congratulations upon your election as President of the 58th Session of the UN General Assembly. I have no doubt that under your able stewardship we will be able to achieve a great deal during this important session. I would also like to thank H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan for his dedication and hard work during the last session.

Mr. President,

The past year has witnessed the fall of a decades-long dictatorship in Iraq. The Iraqi people have regained their freedom and are now embarking upon the arduous process of rebuilding their nation.

However, the auspicious political changes brought on in Iraq will only hold real meaning for the Iraqi people and the regional order once they are able to enjoy the socio-economic benefits of a broad-based functional democratic government. To this end, the Republic of Korea is now playing its part in the process of rehabilitation and reconstruction.

The situation in today's Iraq, however, is less than promising. The recent surge of terror and chaos has served as a sobering reminder that winning the war does not necessarily mean winning peace.

As the terrorist attack against the UN headquarters in Baghdad last month so vividly demonstrated, the prevalence of violence and terrorism poses the most pressing challenge that Iraq has to overcome in building a democratic, peaceful and prosperous nation. The Republic of Korea strongly condemns the atrocious act of terrorism against UN personnel who came to Iraq for the sole purpose of assisting the Iraqi people.

We recommend the Secretary-General to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety and security of the UN and its associated personnel as well as international humanitarian workers in Iraq as they carry out their noble duties.

Mr. President,

Despite the persistence of conflict and turmoil, the international community has continued during the past year to make progress in strengthening the universal values of human rights and democracy. The spread of universal values in turn strengthens the foundation for peace and prosperity around the world.

However, a world in which all peoples enjoy their full rights and dignity is far from a reality. We need to make concerted efforts to promote human dignity as the guiding precept of the world community.

The Republic of Korea remains firmly committed to the international efforts to advance democracy around the world. In this vein, Seoul hosted the Second Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies in November of last year as well as the Third Global Forum on Fighting Corruption in May of this year. We will continue to actively participate in the efforts to promote human rights, the rule of law, and good governance.

The challenges facing us include fighting poverty and achieving sustainable development. Poverty undermines human dignity. It provides fertile ground for conflict and dictatorship. The need for international cooperation in this area has never been greater.

It is therefore tremendously important, to achieve the goals set at last year's International Conference on Financing for Development and the World Summit on Sustainable Development. The international community must exercise collective wisdom to attain tangible results in working toward these goals.

In recent years, the growing number of people moving freely across borders has alerted us to the increasing threats to the public health. As demonstrated by the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic, infectious diseases have become a global issue from which no country is immune. It is timely and fitting that a high-level Meeting was held earlier this week on the follow-up to the outcome of the 26th Special Session on HIV/AIDS.

In our common fight against infectious diseases, I would like to call your attention to the International Vaccine Institute (IVI) which has been headquartered in Seoul since 1997. This unique international organization, devoted to development of new vaccines needed in developing countries, awaits the support of the international community as it continues to expand its activities to promote public health for the less privileged of the world.

Mr. President,

On the global security front, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and its potentially devastating linkage to terrorism loom as a grave and perilous threat. The global nuclear non-proliferation regime based on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) currently faces unprecedented challenges.

How we deal with these challenges will have a decisive bearing on the future of not only the non-proliferation regime, but also on the international security environment as a whole. Recent cases have proven that the existing nuclear non-proliferation regime has inherent limitations when it comes to dealing with determined proliferators.

While reiterating the importance of achieving the universality of the NPT and strengthening the safeguards system through universal adherence to the Additional Protocol to the IAEA Safeguards Agreements, we underscore the need to close the loopholes in the current regime.

In this regard, we stress the vital role of bilateral, multilateral and regional approaches among countries sharing common security interests to reinforce and supplement the NPT. Also imperative is the role of export control arrangements among potential suppliers of relevant components and technologies for WMD.

To this end, my Government hosted the Plenary Meeting of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) last May and will also host a Plenary Meeting of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) next year.

We further believe that the nuclear weapons states can do a great service to the cause of non-proliferation by complying with their share of the nuclear disarmament obligations under the NPT and working harder to achieve the early entry into force of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

Mr. President,

The security of Northeast Asia is currently threatened by the possibility of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK's) nuclear program not only poses a direct challenge to the security of the Korean Peninsula, but also endangers peace and stability in Northeast Asia and beyond. The Republic of Korea is strongly committed to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and our position on the DPRK nuclear issue remains clear and consistent.

First, the DPRK must dismantle its nuclear program in a complete, irreversible and verifiable manner. Second, the DPRK nuclear issue must be resolved in a peaceful and diplomatic manner.

The heightening of military tension on the Korean Peninsula will be detrimental to all of the countries in the region. Fifty years after the end of the Korean War, our people still feel the pain. We must not allow such a tragedy to ever be repeated.

In opting to combine efforts to resolve this matter peacefully and diplomatically, the international community has shown great wisdom in dealing with this pressing. and important matter. These efforts have culminated in the Six-Party Talks held in Beijing last month.

Given the complexity of the issue, the multilateral talks were significant, in that all participants were able to reach consensus on certain principles that will guide their future discussions.

Among these principles, in particular, my Government welcomes the consensus on the necessity of both the denuclearization of the Peninsula and a peaceful resolution through dialogue.

The tasks ahead will be to maintain the momentum for dialogue, and to refine these agreed principles in greater detail. There will indeed be difficulties in bridging the differences at future talks. To overcome these obstacles a spirit of cooperation must prevail, and any action that may aggravate the situation must be avoided.

The success of the Six-Party Talks would not only bring the resolution of the DPRK nuclear issue, but should also lead to the process of creating a durable peace on the Korean Peninsula.

More than ten years following the end of the Cold War, the Peninsula remains the last theater of the Cold War with 1.5 million heavily armed troops still pointing guns across the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that separates South and North Korea. It is time for this fifty-year standoff to give way to reconciliation and cooperation. This process should be cautiously managed to take place in a peaceful and gradual manner.

In this regard, I would like to draw a lesson from the history of Europe that could be helpful in defining the future of inter-Korean relations. As we all know, in the century leading up to the Second World War, relations between France and Germany were characterized by the hostilities and confrontation of three major wars.

After the Second World War, however, the countries of Europe joined forces to help the two rivals settle their differences and to pursue peace and common prosperity through a network of economic interdependence.

Thanks to the vision of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman, the European Coal and Steel Community came into being and has since developed and expanded to become the unprecedented, multilateral institution of integration known today as the European Union.

To be sure, the case of the Korean Peninsula is different from that of Europe. Nevertheless, much as it was in Europe, I believe that a resolution to the political conflict between the two sides of Korea could be facilitated by economic interdependence.

President Roh Moo-hyun's policy toward the North, aptly termed the Policy for Peace and Prosperity, is directly aimed at resolving the political confrontation between the South and North through the deepening of inter-Korean economic interdependence and with the cooperation of the international community.

However, the DPRK's nuclear program has emerged as the most serious challenge to this process of consolidating peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. We in the ROK sincerely hope that the DPRK will realize that it simply cannot achieve economic prosperity without fully abandoning its intentions to develop nuclear weapons.

Noting that all participants at the Beijing Six-Party Talks acknowledged the need to address the DPRK's security concerns, we ask the DPRK to make a wise and far-reaching decision in this regard. We strongly hope that the security concerns of the North, along with the nuclear issue, will be dealt with in more detail at the next Six-Party Talks.

Once the DPRK abandons its nuclear weapon program and utilizes the opportunity offered by the Six-Party Talks to embark on a path toward peace and prosperity, my Government will take further steps toward bold inter-Korean economic cooperation.

The international community will also provide necessary humanitarian and economic assistance. The positive impacts of such cooperation and assistance will resound not only on the Peninsula but throughout the region and beyond.

In conclusion, the DPRK's abandonment of its nuclear program through the Six-Party Talks and the subsequent commencement of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula will present an unprecedented opportunity to dramatically enhance international relations in East Asia.

In this regard, we look forward to the support of all Member States of the United Nations for the success of the Six-Party Talks and the establishment of a lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Mr. President,

The United Nations has much work to do in the 21st century. The global body is our greatest hope in our common efforts to make the world safer and more prosperous, for us and for future generations.

I sincerely hope to see the UN renew itself and achieve its goals, through continuous reform that will make it more effective and democratic. The Republic of Korea pledges its abiding support to the work of the United Nations in its noble mission for mankind as a whole.

Thank you.