South Korean President Moon Jae-in addressed the United Nations General Assembly via prerecorded video on Tuesday. Screenshot courtesy of United Nations
NEW YORK, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said denuclearization and "lasting peace" remain a possibility on the Korean Peninsula during his virtual address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday.
Moon, who has sought another summit with North Korea's Kim Jong Un since their brief meeting at the truce village of Panmunjom in 2019, said in a prerecorded speech the summits with North Korea demonstrate a peace process could emerge through dialogue.
"All of us need to...take one more step forward, to bring denuclearization and lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula," Moon said.
"War must end completely and for good. Peace on the Korean Peninsula will guarantee peace in Northeast Asia as a whole and bring changes to the world order, as well."
The South Korean leader said an end-of-war declaration would open the door to complete denuclearization and a "permanent peace regime" on the peninsula.
Moon, who said in 2018 the era of a Korean Peninsula without war had dawned with the signing of a joint agreement in Pyongyang, also proposed a public health cooperative on COVID-19 among countries in Northeast Asia that would include the Kim regime.
The offer comes at a time when North Korea's claims that it is completely free of COVID-19 have raised concerns in the South that North Korea is struggling while attempting to address malnutrition and other deadly diseases.
Kim has yet to respond to South Korean offers of talks. In June, Pyongyang went ahead with the demolition of the inter-Korean liaison office in Kaesong. The incident led to lower South Korean support for reconciliation with the North.
Moon, like other world leaders, has been primarily preoccupied with battling the coronavirus pandemic and the global economic fallout from reduced movement of people during quarantine.
The South Korean president said his country applied the "key values of democracy" to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Earlier Monday, Moon said in a video address to a high-level meeting commemorating the U.N.'s 75th anniversary that the "Korean government kept our people fully informed every step of the way."
"In return, the people voluntarily put on face masks and actively practiced social distancing, based on the belief that 'I' can be safe only when 'my neighbors' are safe.
"The entire Korean people turned into main actors in infectious disease prevention efforts," he said.
Moon also said a COVID-19 vaccine, once developed, should be "equitably accessed" among countries in the developing world. Korea, headquarters of the International Vaccine Institute, is working to distribute an affordable vaccine for developing nations, he said.
South Korea's call for multilateral cooperation on the pandemic comes at a time of animosity and anxiety. Trust remains deeply lacking between China, the origin of the coronavirus, and the United States. Beijing has refused to take blame for the virus' spread. U.S. President Donald Trump said Beijing is responsible for the pandemic.
"We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world: China," Trump said in his prerecorded speech to the Assembly.
The United States also said at the U.N. Trump's past summits with Kim Jong Un signaled "remarkable progress."
"Americans held captive in North Korea have come home. There have been no new nuclear tests, no long-range missile tests, a dramatic lowering of the diplomatic temperature in the region, and an opening for a lasting agreement that brings peace to the [Korean] Peninsula," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Kelly Craft said Tuesday.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the world must do everything to avoid a new Cold War.
"We are moving in a very dangerous direction," he said.