Foreign Minister welcomes "Olympic truce" in Korea

South Korea – Bilateral relations/North Korea – Statements by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, at his joint press conference at Club France with Mme Laura Flessel, Minister of Sport (excerpts)

Pyeongchang, 10 February 2018

THE MINISTER – It was an exciting time for me yesterday evening, an opening ceremony for the Games that really warmed me up, as you might say, with France present in different ways and in particular through the language. We shouldn’t forget that French is the main language of the Olympic movement; those who might have forgotten this noticed it yesterday evening. Perhaps I was also one of them.

In any case, I came here with Laura Flessel to convey to our athletes the full support of France, the French President, the government, but also the whole nation, alongside the Olympic officials who are here, in the hope that we’ll have the finest victories and scoop lots of medals and that this will also be one of various stages to come in preparing for the Paris Olympic Games. We’re on that path. I believe it’s a great moment for France. It’s also an opportunity to see just how attractive Club France is, and the role you’re going to play here during this time in strengthening France’s image at the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games that will follow.

And finally, yesterday evening, when there was the song “Imagine” with the dove, we almost said to ourselves that the Olympic movement had succeeded and we already had peace. But it’s only a truce. It’s the Olympic truce. And by definition, a truce also ends. But perhaps, in addition to the truce, we experienced moments of the Olympic dream. In addition to the Olympic truce, the Olympic dream, which is about reconciliation and peace. We’ll see. And on this point, France’s position – like the international community’s position – is known: it’s to denuclearize the peninsula. Perhaps, yesterday, small steps were taken in that direction, but we’ll have to see. That’s the feeling I had yesterday evening.

I’d like to add that this afternoon I’m going to have some political meetings in Seoul which will be a continuation of the various meetings I had yesterday evening and this morning with different people, but our perspective this afternoon will be different.

We have close bilateral relations with South Korea which we must strengthen. I’ll be seeing my South Korean counterpart, Ms Kang, at some length this afternoon. We’ve established strategic dialogue. I met my colleague at the end of October last year, to discuss not only what was going to happen here now but also the other issues concerning our cooperation in the economic field, in tourism, in defence and, more broadly, in assessing the political and strategic situations in the whole region. This will be part of our conversations in the afternoon. I’ll also have the opportunity to see Korean investors and French investors – whom Laura Flessel has already met – before going the day after tomorrow to Kuwait, where a major meeting is being held linked to the rebuilding of Iraq. (…)

Q. – A question for M. Le Drian. You talked about your links and contacts with the South Koreans; did you, yesterday at the ceremony or possibly this morning, have the opportunity to talk to the North Korean representatives, beyond a simple handshake?

THE MINISTER – No, that isn’t planned for the moment.

Q. – What will your lasting impression of the ceremony be?

THE MINISTER – I think I said earlier, for me one image was “Imagine”, the dove, with the Korean singers, and then the two young women representing the ice hockey team – one from North Korea, the other from South Korea – carrying the torch up the stairs. That was the most powerful symbol for me. (…)

Q. – You began talking about it, but what importance do you really attach diplomatically to the image of the two Koreas united yesterday evening?

THE MINISTER – I think I said that it’s a truce, and as such is very good news. It’s a carefully planned truce, because there could have been a truce without the joint team. So it’s a stronger truce – which is also good news.

But as I said earlier, truces, a priori, come to an end. Either that or this is a different type of story, what I earlier called a dream. Why not believe in a dream? Yet a dream presupposes that we return to reality, i.e. the necessary denuclearization of the peninsula. Things are extremely simple. And it’s the position of the international community – the whole of the United Nations Security Council –, including renewed decisions at the end of December (…)./.

Published on 01/03/2018

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