EU fully supportive of reconciliation in Korea, deepens economic and trade links with Asean

The European Union's Managing Director for Asia-Pacific Gunnar Wiegand (left) speaking an event at the Singapore Management University on June 8, 2018.

SINGAPORE - The European Union (EU) is "fully supportive" of the efforts towards reconciliation being taken by the two Koreas, its Managing Director for Asia-Pacific Gunnar Wiegand said on Friday (June 8).

He was speaking at an event at the Singapore Management University which was hosted by the EU Delegation to Singapore and attended by diplomats, think-tank researchers and businessmen with interests in Europe.

Mr Wiegand said that the EU is "following the summit with great interest" and has held discussions with South Korea, Japan, China, the US and Russia, though he did not expand further.

Titled "EU-Asia Relations on The Rise", Mr Wiegand's hour-long lecture was moderated by Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, former Secretary-General of the Association of South-east Asian Nations and executive deputy chairman at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

The former European Commission Desk Officer for GDR/External Aspects of German Unification also expressed his hope that the summit can lead to "concrete outcomes" for a complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation (CVID) of the Korean peninsula, and hoped that a lasting peace agreement can finally be concluded to end the Korean War - which ended in 1953 with a ceasefire and not a peace treaty, thus the two Koreas are still technically at war.

He further talked about the value the EU can bring to the rapprochement between two Koreas and the denuclearisation of the peninsula.

He said that the EU is experienced in negotiating nuclear deals, such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which relieved sanctions on Iran in exchange for the elimination of its medium-enriched uranium stockpile and a 98 per cent cut to its low-enriched uranium stockpile. Mr Trump withdrew the US from the pact a month ago.

Mr Wiegand added that the EU has a history of reunification - such as with eastern Europe joining western Europe following the collapse of the Soviet Union - and said this experience could help to facilitate discussions between the two Koreas.

"Europe stands ready to help," Mr Wiegand concluded.

Away from the summit, he also voiced his support for a rules-based international order in which countries follow international laws and formalities established in the various multilateral and international organisations.

He also gave his assurance that the world can count on Europe to uphold globalisation and a rules-based international order.

Mr Wiegand noted that at a time of rising protectionism, the EU is finalising bilateral free-trade agreements (FTAs) with individual Asean countries. He hopes that the EU-Singapore FTA can be signed within the next two months, while the EU-Vietnam FTA can be concluded before this year ends. Brussels is also working on establishing FTAs with governments in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila. Discussions on an EU-Asean FTA is also underway.

He emphasised the significance of closer economic and trade ties between the two regions, as Asean is the EU's third largest trading partner outside Europe, while the EU is Asean's second largest trading partner and by far the largest investor in Asean countries. In addition, 40 per cent of Europe's trade goes through the South China Sea.

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