Yoon urges immediate halt to attempts to seek military cooperation with N. Korea

September 6, 2023

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday urged an immediate halt to any attempts to seek military cooperation with North Korea, amid reports Russia and the North are eyeing arms and defense technology trade.

Yoon made the remark during a summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta, after The New York Times reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un may travel to Vladivostok in Russia next week to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and discuss a possible arms deal.

“Attempts at military cooperation with North Korea, which damage peace in the international community, should be stopped immediately,” the presidential office quoted Yoon as saying.

Yoon urged ASEAN to actively participate in efforts to block North Korea’s key sources of funding for its nuclear and missile development, such as cryptocurrency stealing and labor exports, and stressed the need for all United Nations member states to abide by U.N. Security Council sanctions on the North, including a ban on illegal arms trade, his office said.

Yoon “emphasized the need for a firm and united response from the international community in order to achieve North Korea’s complete denuclearization in light of the severity of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats,” the office said.

He also “stressed that North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats are a serious threat to peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the Indo-Pacific region, and a direct challenge to the international nonproliferation regime.”

North Korea has been suspected of providing weapons to Russia for use in its war against Ukraine. Meanwhile, South Korea’s National Intelligence Service was quoted as saying earlier that Russia’s defense minister proposed holding trilateral naval exercises with the North and China during a visit to Pyongyang in July.

Yoon arrived in Jakarta on Tuesday to attend a series of annual summits involving ASEAN, which comprises Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Of the 10 nations, Myanmar did not participate in the South Korea-ASEAN summit, but East Timor was in attendance as an observer.

During the summit, Yoon shared his administration’s plans to flesh out the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative, a vision he unveiled during last year’s ASEAN-related summits in Cambodia to enhance practical and strategic partnerships with the region.

In the security realm, Yoon said South Korea will increase arms cooperation and defense consultations with ASEAN states while strengthening cooperation in cyber security, transnational crimes and maritime security.

In particular, he emphasized that peace and stability in the South China Sea are critical for the prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and vowed to support ASEAN states’ maritime law enforcement capabilities while expanding cooperation for joint exercises with ASEAN, his office said.

Yoon also outlined plans to enhance the digital capabilities of ASEAN youths, contribute to the sustainable development of four countries along the Mekong River — Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam — and help ASEAN respond to climate change and infectious diseases.

He referred to new cooperation mechanisms established during his trilateral summit with U.S. President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington last month.

“South Korea, the U.S. and Japan agreed to coordinate our respective Indo-Pacific strategies and develop new areas of cooperation based on our full support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture,” he said. “For this, we launched an annual South Korea-U.S.-Japan Indo-Pacific dialogue and newly established a trilateral maritime security cooperation framework to support the maritime security capacities of ASEAN and Pacific Island countries.”

Yoon asked for ASEAN’s support for South Korea’s bid to host the 2030 World Expo in its southeastern port city of Busan, noting its special ties with ASEAN as host of two ASEAN-South Korea commemorative summits in 2014 and 2019.

“The Republic of Korea plans to share our development experience with many maritime countries and many neighboring nations, including ASEAN, through the 2030 Busan World Expo,” he said, referring to South Korea by its formal name. “We also plan to provide a platform to explore solutions to challenges faced by humanity.”

Yoon proposed elevating the South Korea-ASEAN relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership next year to mark the 35th anniversary since the two sides established a dialogue partnership, and the ASEAN leaders welcomed the proposal, according to his office.

He congratulated East Timor on gaining observer status ahead of its full-fledged membership of ASEAN and promised the South Korean government’s support for its efforts to gain membership.