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An eventual role
Publication Date : 02-11-2012
Delivering two key speeches during his visit to Seoul this week, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed his strong wish to contribute to a peaceful and nuclear-free Korean Peninsula.
In his address before a National Assembly plenary session Tuesday, Ban said that as the UN chief, he was ready to play every role required of him to promote peace on the peninsula. He affirmed he was considering visiting North Korea “as soon as conditions are met”.
In his acceptance speech after being awarded the Seoul Peace Prize a day earlier, Ban made similar remarks expressing his willingness to “be directly engaged” in working toward a peaceful and denuclearised peninsula.
It is not the first time that the UN chief has mentioned his readiness to play a part in settling the long-standing nuclear standoff with North Korea but his recent speeches have showed his intention more explicitly. The 68-year-old former South Korean foreign minister appeared to become somewhat emotional when he told lawmakers that as a Korean national, he has aspired more than anyone to see the situation on the Korean Peninsula stabilize and move toward unification.
Few will doubt the sincerity of his remark. And it is also certain that he has greater capacity and ability than any other Korean to make that aspiration come true.
Helping achieve reconciliation and peace between the two Koreas may be one of the crucial tasks facing Ban during the remainder of his second five-year term, which ends in 2016. It may also be the ultimate role that he should assume for his compatriots, who have been so proud of him for leading the key global organisation successfully, earning the respect from all member countries.
The next Seoul government is likely to expect and ask the UN chief to take a more active role in coordinating inter-Korean ties as all the three major presidential candidates have pledged to seek reconciliation with the North, departing from President Lee Myung-bak’s adherence to the principle of reciprocity. His visit to Pyongyang would in itself help ease tensions on the peninsula and persuade the North Korean leadership to abandon its nuclear arms program and take the path toward reform and openness.
It has yet to be seen what response Pyongyang would show to Ban’s wish to take an instrumental part in bringing peace and stability to the peninsula. But North Korean leaders would certainly regard him as a most reliable consultative partner if they seek to change the course of their regime.
During his speeches in Seoul, Ban said the UN would continue to do its utmost to provide humanitarian assistance to North Koreans who are in need, asking Seoul to be more broad-minded toward aid to the North from the perspective of enhancing the interests of the whole Korean nation.
The next South Korean administration, which takes office in February, needs to pay heed to his call in order to forge the environment for a thaw in strained inter-Korean relations and give him more leeway in dealing with Pyongyang.
We sincerely hope his instrumental role in promoting inter-Korean peace would be added to the long list of his credentials as the world’s top diplomat proud of being Korean.