In a hearing held at the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Vice Minister Choi Jong-kun replied “no” in response to an assembly member of the opposition party who asked whether he thought if North Korean had restarted Yongbyon nuclear reactor would it be in violation of the Panmunjom Declaration on April 27, 2018 or the Pyongyang Joint Declaration on Sept. 19, 2018. He went on to say that “North Korea continues to carry out tangible actions based on the two declarations,” and mentioned that North Korea may scrap nuclear/missile testing facilities. “Presidential office Cheong Wa Dae aligns with Choi’s comments,” said an official with the presidential office.
Choi’s reply aligns with the government’s incomprehensible position ever since the IAEA reported of North Korea’s restarting of Yongbyon’s nuclear facilities. The government has not issued any concern or regret, let alone any warning or complaint, against North Korea. It has played down on
North Korea’s nuclear activities despite blatant violation against de-nuclearization and now it is justifying on behalf of North Korea.
The joint declarations include wordings that state “both Koreas confirmed joint goals to achieve a nuclear-free peninsula via complete de-nuclearization” and “North Korea expresses intent to take actions such as permanent disposal of Yongbyon facilities if the U.S. takes corresponding measures”. A literal interpretation of the statement may argue that North Korea’s recent actions are not actual violation. However, the prerequisite for such statements was North Korea leader Kim Jung-un’s willingness to give up nuclear weapons. Reactivation of Yongbyon facilities is a clear violation of such agreement, but the government chose to remain silent and use sophistry.