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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Yoon urges closer cooperation to block North’s illegal funding

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U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Bonnie Jenkins delivers a message on behalf of U.S. President Joe Biden at the Proliferation Security Initiative forum in Seogwipo, Jeju, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
U.S. Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Affairs Bonnie Jenkins delivers a message on behalf of U.S. President Joe Biden at the Proliferation Security Initiative forum in Seogwipo, Jeju, on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

President Yoon Suk Yeol urged the international community to strengthen cooperation to choke off illegal funding of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs in his remarks to the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) forum Tuesday.

Representatives from over 70 countries — including the United States, Japan and Australia — took part in the PSI high-level political meeting hosted on Jeju Island this year, aimed at countering the trafficking of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

“Despite UN Security Council sanctions, North Korea continues to illegally finance its nuclear and missiles programs,” Yoon said in a video message, calling for “more robust” international cooperation to respond to such threats.

He stressed that the South Korean government will actively cooperate with its partners to contribute to the “freedom, peace and prosperity of mankind and to protect the international order based on international laws and norms.”

The PSI, which marks its 20th anniversary, is an international effort specifically targeting the trafficking of WMDs, their delivery systems and related materials.

U.S. President Joe Biden stressed that “no nation acting alone” can address the challenges of WMD proliferation, in remarks to the forum delivered by Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. undersecretary for arms control and international security.

“Around the world, a growing number of nations continue to challenge the global security architecture that monitors and enforces norms against the spread of weapons of mass destruction,” Biden said. “In far too many places, the risk of these weapons falling into the wrong hands remains a persistent and troubling concern.”

In a joint statement adopted Tuesday afternoon, some 100 member states of the PSI stressed the need for “increased cooperation in countering the evolving threats posed by WMD proliferation, such as the development of nuclear and ballistic missiles programs” that violate UN Security Council resolutions.

They committed to considering the impact and challenges posed by the evolution of technologies, “taking into account that new critical and emerging technologies, such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing, can create additional nonproliferation and counter-proliferation challenges.”

The statement also stressed the need for the PSI to address “new and emerging proliferation practices,” including “cryptocurrency, intangible technology transfers, and the increasing sophistication of proliferators’ tactics to circumvent international law.”

This is the first time the PSI forum, launched in May 2003 by the George W. Bush administration to stop WMD trafficking and held every five years to set guidelines for the initiative, was hosted in an Asian country.

A multinational naval drill related to the PSI scheduled for Wednesday will be drastically reduced due to bad weather, the Korean Ministry of National Defense announced Tuesday.

Korea was set to hold the Eastern Endeavor 23 exercise as a part of efforts to strengthen capabilities to counter WMD proliferation in international waters southeast of Jeju, the day after the PSI forum.

This comes as Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer, Hamagiri, entered the port of Busan to attend the naval drill hoisting the controversial Rising Sun flag on Monday.

The Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force has continued to use the Rising Sun ensign, seen as a symbol of Japan’s past imperialism and a reminder of its brutal 1910-45 colonial rule over Korea.

The liberal Democratic Party in turn accused the government of “turning a blind eye” to Japan’s past militarism by allowing the warship to hoist the Rising Sun flag in the drill.

During the scaled-back drill, the Korean destroyer Wang Geon, U.S. destroyer USS Milius, Japanese destroyer JS Hamagiri and Australian frigate HMAS Anzac will depart from Busan on Tuesday and later hold communication line inspection drills in international waters south of the peninsula.

The drill was expected to involve South Korea, the United States, Australia, Japan, Canada and Singapore.

Through this downsizing, a planned review of the warships by Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup was canceled, said his ministry. In turn, the potentially awkward spectacle of a Korean defense chief being saluted by the crew of a Japanese warship hoisting a Rising Sun flag was avoided.

When asked if the naval review was canceled because of the flag controversy, Jeon Ha-kyu, the Defense Ministry’s spokesman, said at a briefing, “That’s not the case.”

The Korean Defense Ministry previously said it will not raise issue with Japan’s use of the flag, calling it “common international practice.”

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]