|Honor guards carry caskets containing the remains of 147 South Korean soldiers killed during the Korean War, which were returned home by a ROK Air Force KC-330 aerial tanker, during a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of the 1950-53 conflict at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, Thursday. The anniversary event was held to show respect for fallen troops and demonstrate Seoul's commitment to friendly cooperation with the 22 nations that fought alongside it under the United Nations flag against the invading North Korean army. / Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in has again extended an overture to North Korea in an effort to get soured inter-Korean relations back on track for peace talks.
Marking the 70th anniversary of the Korean War, Thursday, Moon also urged North Korea to join efforts to achieve the "long-desired wish of 80 million Koreans" for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula.
His remarks come after tensions were escalated following the North's resumption of hostile rhetoric and activities toward the South, but subsided temporarily following North Korean leader Kim Jong-un giving an order Wednesday to withhold planned military actions.
"I hope that North Korea will also boldly embark on an endeavor to end the most sorrowful war in world history," Moon said in a speech during a ceremony for fallen heroes of the war at Seoul Air Base.
"I hope that the tragedy of the war suffered by the South, North and all Koreans will be shared by our future generations as a collective memory and become a strength to usher in peace. If we are going to talk about unification, we have to achieve peace first, and only after peace has continued for a long time will we be able to finally see the door to unification.
"Achieving peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula is a duty that must be fulfilled without fail for both the parents who suffered through the War and their posterity who will usher in the next 70 years. It is the long-desired wish of 80 million Koreans."
For this, the South Korean leader underlined the need for the two Koreas to learn to co-exist together, before speaking of unification.
Moon stressed that the era of confrontation is over and that there must not be another war on the Korean Peninsula.
"We are against a war. Our GDP is more than 50 times that of North Korea, and our trade is over 400 times that of the North. The two Koreas' competition over political and economic systems already ended a long time ago," the South Korean leader said.
"We do not have any intention to force our system on the North. We pursue peace and intend to live well together. We will continuously search for routes that are mutually beneficial for both Koreas through peace. Before speaking of unification, I hope that we can become friendly neighbors first."
This is the first time for Moon to take part in a ceremony marking an anniversary for the Korean War since he took office in May 2017.
Under the theme of "Salute to the Heroes," the ceremony also marked the U.S. return the previous day of the remains of 147 South Korean soldiers who lost their lives in the war.
U.S. President Donald Trump and 21 other heads of states, which fought for South Korea during the war, sent video messages wishing for peace on the peninsula. Some 300 people, including war veterans and bereaved family members of deceased soldiers, took part in the ceremony.
Earlier in the day, South Korea and the United States urged North Korea to honor the agreements it has made with them for the promotion of peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.
The allies issued a joint statement from Defense Minister Jeong Kyeong-doo and U.S. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, reaffirming their shared commitment to achieving peace on the peninsula.
"The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and the ROK Ministry of National Defense (MND) remain firmly committed to defending the hard-fought peace on the Korean Peninsula, to include supporting ongoing diplomatic efforts for the complete denuclearization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) consistent with multiple United Nations Security Council Resolutions," the statement said. The DPRK is the official name of North Korea.
The statement came amid rising concerns about a rift between the allies over the bilateral issues of cost-sharing for maintaining U.S. troops here and responses to the recently rising tensions between the two Koreas.
Pyongyang has been backtracking on the major peace agreements between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean Kim Jong-un made in 2018. The North's destruction of the inter-Korean liaison office in Gaeseong is largely seen as the first move in scrapping the April 27, 2018 Panmunjeom Declaration, the main outcome of the first Moon-Kim summit on the southern side of the border village.
As to such concerns, the statement said, "… both leaders reaffirm their commitment to a combined defense posture that ensures lasting peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula."
The statement also stressed the importance of "trilateral cooperation" with Japan. "The two leaders will also continue to seek synergy between the U.S. and ROK regional strategies in order to maintain the peace and security of the Northeast Asian region through trilateral and multilateral security cooperation. DoD and MND will continue to promote peace and stability in the region through information sharing, high-level policy consultation, and combined exercises."