Seoul – South Korean President Moon Jae-in called on Wednesday for a regional infectious disease control and public health initiative involving Japan, China, Mongolia, and North Korea to tackle health crises and lay the foundation for peace with Pyongyang.
Moon unveiled the so-called Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health during a video address to the U.N. General Assembly.
“In the face of the COVID-19 crisis that poses a greater threat to humanity than a war, we came to be acutely reminded that the safety of neighboring countries is directly linked to that of our own,” Moon said, according to an English translation of his prepared remarks distributed by his office.
Such an initiative would lead North Korea to “engage with the international community,” according to Moon.
“It is not only Korea’s response to COVID-19 but also the invaluable lessons Korea will be gaining from institutionalizing peace that Korea wishes to share with the rest of the world,” he said.
However, it’s unclear whether North Korea will respond to the call, as the country has shifted to a hard-line stance in its policies toward South Korea.
It’s also unclear how Tokyo views such an initiative. Japan-South Korea have soured over wartime history and trade issues. New Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has expressed hopes for improved relations in a letter to Moon, the South Korean leader’s office said Monday.
Japan has also taken a tough approach to the nuclear-armed Pyongyang, though Suga has said he is open to unconditional talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moon said the coronavirus pandemic has posed a “greater threat to humanity than a war,” and that “the safety of neighboring countries is directly linked to that of our own.”
He emphasized the need for global cooperation to tackle the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, as well as in the development and provision of vaccines.
Moon also marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, which ended in 1953 in an armistice, and called for international support for an end-of-war declaration.
“Peace on the Korean Peninsula will guarantee peace in Northeast Asia as a whole and, going one step further, bring positive changes to the world order as well,” he said, expressing his intention to continue talks with North Korea.