Moon ratifies Pyongyang Declaration

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President Moon Jae-in ratified an agreement signed between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their third summit in Pyongyang last month. “Moon ratified the Pyongyang Joint Declaration. An official announcement will soon follow,” a Cheong Wa Dae official said. As a procedural step for the ratification, the Cabinet earlier approved the declaration, as well as a separate inter-Korean military agreement reached at the summit.

The move comes after the Ministry of Government Legislation concluded that obtaining the National Assembly’s consent for ratification of the two agreements was not necessary as a broader inter-Korean agreement, the Panmunjom Declaration reached at the first Moon-Kim summit in April, is undergoing the Assembly ratification process. The conservative parties sharply criticized the move, claiming Moon was backtracking on his earlier pledge to seek parliamentary consent for inter-Korean deals. However, the presidential office said the ratification of the two agreements will boost the wider implementation of promises made in Pyongyang.

“At the Vatican, Pope Francis directly mentioned his willingness to visit North Korea. The U.K. and France, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), clearly showed their backing in terms of denuclearization as well as the peace process. The international community is on our side. I hope to win more support from the public in the ongoing process,” Moon said at the Cabinet meeting, according to press pool reports.  The two Korea are engaging in military trust-building, the President said. “Once we see further progress in the easing of military tensions and the development of inter-Korean relations, then the whole denuclearization process will accelerate,” Moon said, adding the agreement will also help promote human rights in North Korea. The promises made at Panmunjeom in April and Pyongyang in September face the difficulties of the limits of economic cooperation under the extensive international sanctions regime on North Korea, and the issue of denuclearization.

At the summit in Pyongyang, two detailed areas of progress were bilateral measures along the Northern Limit Line (NLL) _ the disputed West Sea maritime boundary _ and others along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). For President Moon, who has long been vocal about the pursuit of a permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, walking away from the North Korean capital with a meaningful joint declaration on military-to-military talks and cooperation was a powerful gesture given the ongoing hurdles facing any further grand economic moves. Presidential chief of staff Im Jong-seok said the government plans to ask the National Assembly for ratification only if some agreements reached by the two Korea produce a financial burden. Unifying the two Koreas could cost $1 trillion under the best scenario and take several decades. The final price tag will depend largely on what the catalyst for reunification is. “As seen by previous cases, it’s unnecessary for Assembly approval to make the Pyongyang Declaration actually happen,” Im said after the Cabinet meeting, the pool reports said.

President Moon is taking steps to spread his “sanctions-relief” message to the international community, to encourage North Korea to announce more concrete and detailed plans to scrap all its nuclear programs. The pitch, however, is getting a mixed response from UNSC members and the United States over “differing thinking” toward the North’s denuclearization. The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) welcomed the Cabinet’s decision. The conservative opposition parties were less positive, claiming President Moon was disregarding the National Assembly. “The government said the Panmunjom Declaration needed Assembly approval, but also said there was no need to ratify the Pyongyang Declaration. This perception represents how the President is dogmatic,” said Kim Sung-tae, floor leader of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. The bill submitted for ratification of the Panmunjeom Declaration, a result of Moon’s first summit with Kim, is still pending at the Assembly.

By Kim Yoo-chul

(Korea Times)

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