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The General Assembly resolution on Korean peace, security and reunification represented a crucial turnaround in the history of that region, Sun Joun-Yung, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Korea to the United Nations, told correspondents at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.

The adoption of the resolution by consensus, today, confirmed the support of the international community for the recent diplomatic breakthroughs between the Republic of Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Mr. Sun said. It was the first resolution taken on the Korean issue, in the General Assembly, since two contradictory texts were adopted simultaneously in 1975. Both Koreas were admitted to the United Nations as separate Member States in 1991. The two countries cooperated in the drafting of today's resolution.

The breakthrough began with the historic inter-Korean summit meeting, at which a joint declaration was adopted, he continued. Thereafter, the two Koreas had been smoothly implementing follow-up measures, which included meetings for economic cooperation and other issues, and exchanges in culture and sports. There was work on the reunion of separated families, and on reconnecting the railroad link that had remained cut for the past half century. And a September meeting between the two defence ministers produced an agreement establishing a working-level committee on confidence-building. At the same time, dialogue between North Korea and the United States accelerated. "If, and when, President Clinton's trip to North Korea is realized, I can assure you of epochal improvement between the United States and North Korea", he said.

Mr. Sun attributed the recent progress to the bold leadership and determination on the part of the North Korean leader, Kim Jung II and the South Korean President, Kim Dae Jung, who had consistently pursued a policy of engagement. He hoped that, in the years to come, the peace process as a whole would continue to move forward, so that genuine peace could be consolidated on the Korean peninsula and contribute to regional and global peace and security.

A correspondent asked if it was true that both governments opposed reunification, a concept that was included in today's resolution. Mr. Sun replied that he would not use the word opposed. Unification of the land remained a cherished aspiration of the Korean people. But, in his Government's current policy, mutual reunification was seen as, possibly, a distant yet ultimate stage of a process in which cooperation and reconciliation, peaceful coexistence and mutual prosperity were primary.

Another correspondent asked about the historic significance of today's action, given that the United Nations participated in the Korean War. Korea was, Mr. Sun said, technically still at war, and, in Seoul, there was still a United Nations command headed by a United States general. But, for the time, being, "we put all those legal things behind to move forward with the peace process".

Asked whether he foresaw any United Nations debate on the reunification issue, Mr. Sun said he did not, but expressed gratitude to Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his keen interest in Korean developments, and for issuing statements that recognized progress. He did not, though, see any room for direct United Nations involvement in the ongoing dialogue. Today's resolution, he said, asked Member States to support and assist the dialogue and the reconciliation process, as appropriate. In essence, the whole international community had been invited to watch the process unfold.

Other correspondents asked about the working relationship between the two delegations. They didn't have any problems working together, said Mr. Sun, and cooperated well on the draft resolution. Since the end of July, the delegations had been in contact with each other, not on a regular basis, but whenever there was an issue to discuss. Asked why the North Korean ambassador was not together with him at the press briefing, he replied, "Agreement on that particular point was not reached".

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