Mr Reynders referred to the possibility of a Belgian military presence as “symbolic but useful” in South Korea
Monday, 12 June 2017
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders met with the commander-in-chief of US forces in South Korea, General Vincent K. Brooks, on the sidelines of the princely economic mission in Seoul on Monday. He discussed with him the possibility of the Belgian participation in certain American-United States exercises in the peninsula, which would be aimed at improving Belgian military intelligence on the conflict and pushing the way for dialogue as “symbolic but useful”.
Belgium has been present since the beginning in South Korea, said Reynders after his meeting with the American general who commands US forces, UN forces and the combined US-Korea forces in South Korea.
During the princely mission, Belgian and Korean officials regularly recalled that more than 3,000 Belgians fought in Korea between 1951 and 1955 in a battalion of volunteers against the North, and 106 of them died there. On Monday, the head of the Belgian diplomacy also saw the memorial book of these soldiers, deposited on one of the three tables where the armistice was signed, at the headquarters of Major Brooks in Seoul.
Together with Princess Astrid and ministers of the delegation, Didier Reynders will meet with newly elected President, Moon Jae-In, on Tuesday. The latter seems to be seeking to revive the policy of reconciliation with the North. It recently delayed the strengthening of the US anti-missile shield (THAAD) in South Korea on the grounds of necessary transparency procedures vis-à-vis its population.
For Didier Reynders, if the sanctions decided by the UN Security Council (UNSC) are to be implemented, they would have a rather limited effect because the North remains closed. Regarding political pressure, Belgium – a candidate for a seat on the Security Council – wants to “explore possible means of dialogue, even if they are limited”.
“But how can we help to try to resume dialogue when it is so difficult to know what the North wants to negotiate”, he said, stressing the need for North Korea to at least freeze its efforts to develop a nuclear capacity.
“The difficulty is having a real understanding of the negotiating capacity of the United States, Japan and China with North Korea,” Reynders said. To improve its intelligence, Belgium could participate in exercises alongside the United States – under the UN banner – for example in maneuvering for evacuation plans, as observers and as medical officers.
“A symbolic but useful participation”, which would improve intelligence to better explore the possible avenues of dialogue, and aid in ensuring that Belgium “remains informed of the debates” if it finds itself at the Security Council table.