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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 8)

All News 07:07 August 08, 2018

Backtracking on CVID
ARF tones down statement regarding North Korea

The 25th meeting of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), attended by foreign ministers and representatives from ARF member nations, concluded in Singapore on Aug. 4. The ARF is formed of 27 countries, including the two Koreas and all members of the six-party talks.

In the chairman's statement, the ARF noted the significance of the April 27 inter-Korean summit at the border village of Panmunjeom and the June 12 U.S-North Korea summit in Singapore. The ARF also welcomed the Panmunjeom Declaration for peace on the Korean Peninsula produced during the meeting between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the Singapore agreement between U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim.

Through the ARF chairman's statement, the ministers called for the "full and expeditious implementation" of the Panmunjeom Declaration and the agreement reached between the leaders of the U.S. and North Korea. But the ARF statement has received some criticism for leaving out the term "complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization" (CVID). It only mentions North Korea's "complete denuclearization," while urging the country "to refrain from further nuclear and missile tests." CVID was mentioned in last year's ARF statement when the participants showed grave concern about North Korea's continued provocations.

Given that North Korea has strongly protested the use of CVID, the omission of the term in the ARF statement is seen as a diplomatic success for North Korea. Unlike the previous ARF meetings, this time North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho was seen actively engaging with other ministers. However, Ri rejected a request from Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha for a meeting on the sidelines of the ARF. While Ri turned down meetings with top diplomats from South Korea and the U.S., he called on the U.S. to carry out confidence-building measures in order to implement the Singapore agreement between Kim and Trump.

The U.S. is pressing North Korea to conduct concrete steps to reaffirm its commitment to denuclearization and remains firm on retaining sanctions on North Korea. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton claimed recently in a media interview that Kim had told President Moon during their April summit that he would complete denuclearization within a year.

Given the slow progress so far, it is unlikely the U.S. and North Korea will be able to close their gap in the near future. To move things along, the leaders of the two countries should meet again soon.

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