The United States is vital to peace and prosperity in the Asia-Pacific. To some, community-building and integration in the Asia-Pacific region may sound more like a far-off vision than an achievable goal at this point. But with active US leadership, the realization of that vision can be greatly accelerated. I would certainly hope that such a vision and leadership are actively forming in the minds and hearts of the leaders of this great country, many of whom are present here this evening.
North Korean Nuclear Issue
Among the serious security issues in the Asia-Pacific region, the most urgent is the North Korean nuclear issue. Only a year ago, a historic breakthrough was reached in the Six-Party Talks with the adoption of the Joint Statement setting out the goals and principles toward denuclearization on the Korean peninsula.
The Joint Statement of September 19, 2005 was the fruit of two years of arduous diplomatic efforts involving six countries for the single purpose of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful and diplomatic manner. It presented a balanced and comprehensive blueprint for the peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue.
Moreover, the Joint Statement was the result of close ROK-US cooperation based on the shared strategy toward North Korea -- that it must forgo nuclear ambitions and become a responsible member of the international community.
Unfortunately, the discussion on the implementation of the Joint Statement has been stalled due to North Korea's refusal to return to the Six-Party Talks. North Korea's missile launches in July added yet another twist to the difficult situation.
The missile launches were met with a strong response from the international community, and prompted the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt resolution 1695. With the resolution, the international community sent a clear and solemn message to Pyongyang. But it also showed North Korea a way out of the current predicament, that is, to return to the Six Party Talks without condition.
The Republic of Korea and the United States as well as other countries concerned are seeking ways to resume the Six Party Talks, while faithfully implementing 1695. In this regard, during their summit meeting in Washington on September 14, President Roh Moo-hyun and President Bush agreed to work with other nations of the Six Party Talks to develop a common and broad approach to reenergize the stalled Talks. The two leaders also reaffirmed that the Joint Statement offered the best hope for North Korea to rejoin the community of nations and to partake in the fruits of international cooperation and assistance.
In the follow-up consultations to the summit, senior diplomats of our two countries are in in-depth consultations, mustering the best of their wisdom and creativity, and working together as allies to manage the situation toward a resumption of the Six Party Talks and the peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue.