By Guan Zhaoyu and Li Shiyu Source: CGTN Published: 2018-10-18
On October 13, Republic of Korea (ROK) President Moon Jae-in flew to the French capital Paris for a nine-day trip to Europe, which includes visits to France, Italy, the Vatican, Belgium, and Denmark.
In addition to meeting with leaders of these countries, attending the Asia-Europe Meeting and the P4G Summit, Moon Jae-in also shoulders the mission of earning support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, expressing the bilateral cooperation desire to end the state of war on the Korean Peninsula, improving the image of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) in the western world, and creating a favorable external public opinion environment for solving the Korean Peninsula issue.
It is true that in the past year, the situation on the Korean Peninsula has changed immensely. The DPRK and the ROK have been showing signs of thawing relations since the beginning of this year. In February, athletes from both sides marched under the unified flag during the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.
For more than half a year, meetings between the two Koreas have been held successively: the historic "ice-breaking" meeting of bilateral leaders and the signing of the Panmunjom Declaration in April, a second meeting in May exchanging views on the proposal to facilitate the DPRK-US summit talks, after which Moon Jae-in visited the DPRK again in September signing the September Pyongyang Joint Declaration and reaching a bilateral agreement on pushing topics including the process of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the strengthening of North-South exchanges and the realization of permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Not only in the talks between the two sides, but also in the communication with the international community, Moon Jae-in has always maintained a proactive attitude, visiting countries intensively, actively coordinating their relations with the DPRK, and positioning himself as the "broker" of the DPRK's contact with the outside world, conveying the determination of the DPRK's top leader Kim Jong Un of ending the military confrontation, realizing complete denuclearization and establishing a permanent peace mechanism to achieve the goal of "issuing a declaration of ending-war within the year.
"Moon's visit to the five European countries is in line with the efforts to promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula over the past half year. Soliciting the support of European countries will create a favorable external environment for the denuclearization of the Peninsula. This attitude will also properly respond to the DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's efforts in the process of denuclearization, strengthening his will and confidence.
The first leg of the trip was France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council and an important force of the EU. Moon Jae-in attempted to gain the approval and support of French President Emmanuel Macron, aiming to convince the UN to ease sanctions on DPRK and further promoting DPRK's abandonment of the atomic arms program. Moon expected France to fully play the role of UN Security Council's permanent member, taking early actions when conditions are met. He also called on France to work with ROK to win the support and encouragement of the international community for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
On October 18, Moon Jae-in will meet Pope Francis and deliver Kim Jong Un's personal letter which invites the Catholic leader to visit DPRK. He will also ask the Holy See to pray for peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, and discuss future cooperation.
With Pope Francis's influence in the Christian world, if Moon can get the approval and blessing of the Pope, the image of the DPRK in the West will be greatly improved, which will further promote western countries to ease sanctions and pressure on the DPRK.
If the visit is successful in gaining broad support from European countries for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, it will provide a great impetus for the denuclearization realization; future interactions between the ROK and Europe will increase, and the relationship between the DPRK and Europe will likely to be eased.
However, the lack of mutual trust between the DPRK and the outside world, especially the US, is still a barrier in the process of denuclearization. How to find a balance between seeking dialogue and revocation of sanctions, and how to reach effective communication and make reasonable concessions are the key points that the international community and the DPRK should carefully consider.
Guan Zhaoyu is an associate research fellow and Li Shiyu is an intern research fellow at the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China.