President Park Geun-hye said Monday that Pyongyang's pursuit of nuclear arms is the "most destabilizing" factor on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia, and also poses a serious threat to world peace.
Speaking at the World Policy Conference in Seoul, Park also vowed to flesh out her "Eurasia" initiative as a platform to create new growth engines and build regional trust. The initiative calls for the linking of energy and logistics infrastructure across the continent.
"I can't help but mention North Korea's insistence on the development of nuclear weapons ― which goes against the international trends (for peace) ― as one of the factors that restrict multilateral cooperation," she said.
Launched in 2007 by the IFRI, a French research institute, the 7th WPC brought together some 300 prominent figures including political and business leaders, and civil society figures to discuss a set of global issues such as security in Asia and Europe, and climate change. The WPC session in Seoul was the first to take place in Asia.
Criticizing the North's policy of developing its nuclear programme and economy simultaneously as "contradictory," Park pointed out that the policy has only worsened living conditions for North Korean citizens.
"What matters is North Korea's attitude. Should the North give up its nuclear programme and come forward to help enhance the livelihoods of its people, South Korea and the international community would work together to support the North's economic development," she said.
"Otherwise, the remnants of the Cold War on the Korean Peninsula would not be removed."
As for the Eurasia initiative, Park said that Seoul would step up efforts to develop and implement three-way cooperative projects among the two Koreas and Russia, as well as among the two Koreas and China.
"(The initiative) would help us link transport and energy networks beyond Northeast Asia into the Eurasian region. This would help create growth engines and accumulate trust in the realms of politics and security," she said.
Her remarks about the initiative came as the momentum was building for the logistical cooperation among the two Koreas and Russia. Some 45,000 tons of coal from Russia made its way to Pohang via North Korea in a pilot programme using the newly restored Rajin-Khasan railroad.
Park also used her speech at the WPC to promote her "Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation" initiative as an effective platform to build multilateral trust in the region, which has long been beset by territorial and historical disputes, and geostrategic rivalries.
She stressed the need for multilateral efforts to address the deep-seated distrust among nations in East Asia through seeking cooperation first on less sensitive issues such as climate change and disaster relief.
"Should countries in the region build practices of cooperation and dialogue initially on specific, practical issues such as nuclear safety, climate change, disaster relief and energy security, we would be able to develop a multilateral cooperative process like what Europe has achieved," she said.
To this end, she stressed the need for South Korea, China and Japan to join forces so as to play a key role to strengthen regional cooperation. The three-way cooperation has weakened in recent years amid territorial and historical disputes among them.