Former President Donald Trump said Saturday that America’s bold step to begin a direct dialogue with Pyongyang has opened the door to the reunification of North and South Korea and paved the way for a more peaceful world in the 21st century.
Joined online by current and former heads of state and other prominent international figures for a major virtual rally, Mr. Trump offered an optimistic call for unity and newfound cooperation around the world. He also called for the permanent denuclearization of North Korea, a long-standing policy goal of the U.S. and its unwavering regional friend and ally South Korea.
In one of his highest-profile public appearances since leaving office in January, he said there is no substitute for strong, creative, determined leadership from Washington.
“I truly believe that an extraordinary future awaits the people of North Korea, and I have faith that if they pursue the path of denuclearization, they will make that future a magnificent reality,” Mr. Trump said at the digital “Rally of Hope.”
“Until that blessed day comes, the indispensable force for peace on the Korean Peninsula remains a strong America. As we have seen recently in other parts of the world, weakness only invites more violence and chaos.
“The true task for all of us who pray for peace on the Korean Peninsula is to ensure that our nations are not only great in power and rich in wealth — but even more, we must be strong in spirit. Every nation must summon the will to protect its citizens, its allies, and to leave a better world for its children,” Mr. Trump said in his taped address. “These are the forces and values that inspire change, that move countries, that make history, and that ultimately lead to peace.”
The rally, organized by the Universal Peace Federation and the seventh such event since August 2020, drew participants from around the globe to fight oppression, poverty and racial discrimination. It was part of the Universal Peace Federation’s Think Tank 2022 Rally of Hope initiative, designed to bring together prominent figures from around the world and across all sectors of society to examine all aspects of the unification of North and South Korea, organizers said.
Other speakers at Saturday night’s event included Hun Sen, prime minister of Cambodia; Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission; Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former president of The Philippines; H.D. Deve Gowda, former Indian prime minister; Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmon, former president of Trinidad and Tobago; and Natasa Micic, former Serbian president.
Beyond the reunification of North and South Korea, speakers addressed key regional issues, including Chinese aggression toward Taiwan and the Chinese Communist Party’s broader effort to exert influence over the Pacific region.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for Japan, the U.S., South Korea and other stakeholders to come together as one and face that challenge head-on.
“The need for more solidarity between countries that share the values of freedom and democracy — such as Japan, the United States, Taiwan and South Korea — is more pressing than ever,” he said.
“We will need passionate leaders if we are to achieve solidarity between countries sharing freedom and democracy, maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait, and achieve peaceful reunification on the Korean Peninsula. These Rallies of Hope will give us much strength,” he said in his prerecorded remarks. “Of that, I am confident.”
On Afghanistan, which the militant Taliban recently recaptured after the withdrawal of all U.S. troops, some world leaders called for international cooperation but also for an understanding that local populations are often best positioned to offer solutions.
“Other countries cannot transplant political values and systems upon any country, as these fundamentals need to be indigenously developed corresponding to the political, economic, social and cultural contexts of each individual country,” Hun Sen said.
‘Kept the promise’
Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon, a co-founder of the Universal Peace Federation, said today’s generation is poised to see history on the Korean Peninsula.
“Throughout human society, you have been specially chosen by heaven with regards to the heavenly unified Korea and the realization of world peace,” she said. “There is a profound meaning. You need to understand that heaven is working with you.”
Mrs. Moon, the leader of the Unification Church, and her late husband, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, devoted their lives to the reunification of the Korean Peninsula and to the promotion of world peace.
Reuniting Korea is a key pillar of the Unification movement that grew from the Unification Church that Rev. Moon founded in 1954. Mrs. Moon has led the movement since a few years before the 2012 death of Rev. Moon, whose ministry grew from a tiny, embattled church in South Korea to a global spiritual movement and an affiliated commercial empire comprising real estate, manufacturing and agricultural operations, as well as media properties including The Washington Times.
The goal of truly changing the dynamic on the Korean Peninsula seemed closer than ever during Mr. Trump‘s time in office.
Perhaps more than any other U.S. official in recent history, Mr. Trump spent time and expended political capital in a personal effort to break the stalemate of division between North and South Korea.
Previous presidents pursued policies of isolation toward Pyongyang, but Mr. Trump met face-to-face with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Their first meeting in Singapore in 2018 sparked hope that the two nations could strike a long-awaited denuclearization deal, which proponents say would be a key step in the broader push toward reunification.
Mr. Trump held a second meeting with Mr. Kim in Vietnam, and the two men met in 2019 at the Demilitarized Zone, which separates North and South Korea. The Trump administration pushed for a deal in which Pyongyang would have agreed to permanent and verifiable abandonment of its nuclear weapons program in exchange for relief from crushing economic sanctions and millions of dollars in outside investment from around the world.
Although such a deal did not materialize, Mr. Trump said it’s clear that the outreach paid major dividends. Most notably, he said, the North Korean leader has at least temporarily given up nuclear weapons launches and other major weapons testing.
“Although it became clear in our second summit in Hanoi that North Korea was not yet ready to make a deal, I remain full of hope for the future,” Mr. Trump said. “To this day, Chairman Kim has kept the promise he made to me in Singapore: that there would be no more long-range missile launches or nuclear weapons testing. … I hope that continues.”
North Korea conducted several smaller-scale weapons tests early in President Biden’s tenure. The U.S.-North Korean dynamic has remained frosty during the first nine months of the Biden presidency, and it’s unclear exactly how the Biden administration will approach Pyongyang over the next several years.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story failed to make clear addresses by former President Donald Trump and former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were prerecorded for the digital event.