The 2022 Seoul Defense Dialogue addressed the complete denuclearization of North Korea, noting “positive thinking” as key.
At the beginning of this week, national security experts from 54 countries gathered at Lotte Hotel in Seoul in collaboration against international security threats. The central theme for the 10th annual Seoul Defense Dialogue is “How to Address Complex Security Challenges: Fostering International Solidarity.” The dialogue began on Tuesday, Sept. 6, and will continue to Thursday, Sept. 8.
On Wednesday, the first session addressed “International Cooperation and Approaches for Complete Denuclearisation of North Korea.” The panel was led by Beom Chul Shin, the vice minister of the Ministry of National Defense in the Republic of Korea (ROK).
In light of ongoing nuclear testing by North Korea with Kim Jong-Un’s declaration to fight the U.S. and “eliminate” South Korea, the country poses a threat to “the security of the Republic of Korea and trying to weaken the ROK-US alliance,” Shin stated during the first session. “Therefore, we need to deter North Korean attempts.”
Shin presented three major efforts in the fight for denuclearization:
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- Strengthening of South Korea’s nuclear deterrence capabilities.
- Strengthening the ROK-US alliance and global solidarity.
- “Unconditional dialogue” with North Korea.
Shin emphasized that this action towards North Korea was a “common goal for the international community,” calling for the international community to join hands and “usher in a new era of denuclearization.”
Panelist Masami Oka, Tokyo’s vice defense minister, shared Shin’s concerns over North Korea’s “unprecedented high frequency” of missile launches and growing nuclear capabilities. Oka’s participation at the defense conference marked the first time South Korea and Japan had held defense talks in six years. Despite historical and territorial feuds between the two nations, the meeting concluded with a shared understanding and promise of cooperation, Yonhap News reported.
The panelists unanimously agreed that international cooperation was critical when striving towards North Korea’s denuclearization. Eirini Lemos-Maniati, deputy director of NATO HQ’s Arms Control, Disarmament and WMD Non-Proliferation Centre, shared that this issue was not to be dealt with “only by one region” as “North Korea’s nuclear weapons have global implications.”
In response, Shin argued that the denuclearization of North Korea was a matter of willingness, as the country has a “strong willingness to hold nuclear weapons” compared to the willingness of the international community, which he described as “not that strong.”
Former National Security Council Deputy Assistant Allison Hooker admitted that implementing sanctions can be effective, but that the ones in place had failed due to “so many distractions over the past few years.” Hooker also highlighted ongoing UN Security Council challenges, specifically Russian and Chinese opposition against UN resolutions and emergency crises.
Despite South Korea and the U.S.’ influence in the international community, Shin cited China’s “active support” of their ally as contradictory to their efforts. He argued that North Korea’s possession of a nuclear weapon presented an additional limitation as “we should not use [a] military option to denuclearize North Korea.”
Although North Korea’s nuclear capabilities present itself as a looming threat, Shin maintained an optimistic view. He explained that South Korea’s progress over the past 70 years, along with their strong alliances, is evidence that “we are winning in the race.”
“[This] kind of positive thinking is very necessary to solve North Korea’s nuclear problem. So I am still positive. In the end, we are winning,” Shin declared. “Our direction is clear and I am very positive on that.”