NEW YORK, May 8 – Speaking on the “Korean Peninsula and Peaceful Reunification Diplomacy” at the International Peace Institute in New York on Tuesday, visiting South Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said that his country actively pursued the goal of unification with North Korea. “Germany was reunited in 1990 and a year later, in 1991, I had to witness with a heavy heart the admission of two Koreas (South and North Korea) taking two different seats at the United Nations,” Yun told the audience comprising UN high-ranking officials, foreign ambassadors accredited to the UN, representatives of non-governmental organisations and the international media.

Malaysia’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Datuk Hussein Haniff was also in the audience. Making frequent references to the German unification, which came unexpectedly and took many by surprise, Yun said that Germany provided a “learning experience” for reuniting a divided nation. The South Korean foreign minister even hinted that the Korean unification could possibly happen soon, citing the East and West Germany reunification which came about with rapidly unfolding events following the dynamics unleashed by the initial rumblings in the former Soviet Union and its satellite states. The foreign minister referred to his early conversation with former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who told him: “Asia is today more in the position of 19th century Europe where military conflict could not be ruled out.”

“Likewise, I do believe the day is approaching, perhaps much faster than we may all realise, for the two Koreas to replace their respective nameplates (at the United Nations) with one single name plate that simply says Korea,” Yun said. There were “tremendous changes” taking place in the Korean Peninsula, accompanied by the rise of China, a resurgent Japan and an increasingly belligerent-sounding North Korea. North Korea’s economic bankruptcy, exacerbated by shortages of food and other basic necessities, could push the country to seek more aid which the country’s regime, usually, does by using nuclear blackmail.

However, Yun maintained that the cost of keeping and testing nuclear weapons would be so high that it could bankrupt North Korea and threaten the survival of the Kim Jong Un’s regime. But North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, which are, in fact, enshrined in its constitution, pose a major obstacle to peace in the region. North Korea, Yun warned, was waiting for the right moment to undertake a nuclear test “once they have taken the political decision” . Such a move by North Korea defying the overwhelming opposition by the international community would attract further international sanctions against that state which already faces four rounds of international sanctions.

Yun, who is in New York to preside a UN security council meeting to mark the 10th anniversary of the adoption of resolution 1540 which seeks to prevent weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of terrorists, told BERNAMA in response to a question that if North Korea shows any further provocations, “the UNSC members would respond to them swiftly.” Apparently, Yun’s warning comes in the backdrop of a US military satellite sighting what it described as “imminent signs” of a new nuclear North Korea test at its Punggye-ri proving grounds, according to the Pentagon.

The North Korean foreign ministry had warned in a statement on March 30 that it would conduct a “new form of nuclear test”, implying a fourth underground nuclear test and possibly the first one using a uranium-fueled nuclear bomb. The first two tests in 2006 and 2009 were reportedly plutonium bombs, according to American experts, but there is no clarity over the type of material used for the February 2013 bomb. The sanctions would push the North Korean regime’s back to the wall, making the cost of maintaining nuclear weapons “very, very high” and threatening the regime’s survival.

Using a carrot-and-stick approach, Yun stressed that South Korean President Park Geun-hye had made proposals last month to unify Korea, but added that it “takes two to tango”, implying that North Korea would have to positively respond to the South’s “genuine proposals.” There was also a need to remove the trust deficit that existed between the two sides. Expressing optimism over the unification, Yun said changes were also taking place within the two mentor countries, China and Russia, both of which for the first time favoured a peaceful Korean unification.