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(Yonhap Interview) Mexican Senate chief expresses hope for improved inter-Korean ties through Olympics

2018/01/25 10:00

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SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- Mexican Senate President Ernesto Cordero has voiced hopes that North Korea's participation in next month's PyeongChang Winter Olympics will mark a "new beginning" of cross-border ties long strained by its continued provocations.

During an interview with Yonhap News Agency, the former finance minister also renewed Mexico's support for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and noted the need for Pyongyang to explore a "new vision" to end its isolation and foster prosperity for its people.

"The fact that you are going to be represented in the parade together, South Korea and North Korea, and that you are going to have a common ice hockey woman team ... I think that shows some signals," said Cordero.

"I wish that certainly this signal for peace that the Olympic parade means could be a new beginning," he added. He came to Seoul on Sunday for a six-day visit.

This photo, taken Jan. 24, 2018, shows Ernesto Cordero, the president of Mexico's Senate, speaking during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul. (Yonhap) This photo, taken Jan. 24, 2018, shows Ernesto Cordero, the president of Mexico's Senate, speaking during an interview with Yonhap News Agency in Seoul. (Yonhap)

Cordero was referring to the recent inter-Korean agreement to march together under a "unified Korea" flag during the opening ceremony of the Feb. 9-25 Olympics in the South and field a joint women's ice hockey team.

The North is set to send a 46-member sports delegation, including 22 athletes, to the quadrennial games. In addition, it has offered to send a 230-member cheering team, a taekwondo demonstration team and an art troupe.

The Senate chief also recalled South Korea's efforts to promote peace during the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul by ensuring the participation of both the United States and the Soviet Union, the bitter Cold War foes.

"If you remember the Olympic Games in Moscow in 1980, the U.S. decided not to go, and during the L.A. Olympics in 1984, the Soviet Union boycotted the games," he said. "(South Korea) used the Olympic Games to promote peace in 1988, and you are doing it again in PyeongChang this year."

   When it comes to promoting peace, Mexico has always been by South Korea's side, Cordero stressed.

"Let me tell you that Mexico has been a very strong ally of Korea, trying in the efforts of pursuing peace on the peninsula," he said.

"Mexico expelled the North Korean ambassador in Mexico City a couple of months ago -- permanent expulsion -- because we do not share the vision of North Korea, and (South) Korea is our friend and our partner, and we want to be with our ally and show solidarity," he added.

He also rebuked Pyongyang for its relentless saber-rattling that has long destabilized the peninsula.

"(North Koreans) are pulling their strings too much, and they want to create tension. ... The rest of the world shouldn't allow for that," he said.

Commenting on the North's threadbare economy, he called for the reclusive state to open up to the outside world. He pointed out that history has shown the communist economic model has "failed."

   "It is obvious. You have to open your economy. You have to open to free trade. You have to have sound economic and monetary policies. You need private property in order to succeed," he said.

"When you are a central planner and you believe you can control the life and economy of everyone, when there are no private corporations, when everything has to be done by the government, that is a model that shows it is a failure."

   During the interview, Cordero stressed the importance of South Korea in his country's efforts to deepen strategic engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which he dubbed the "engine of the world's growth."

   The two pillars of the efforts is the Trans Pacific Partnership, a mooted free trade deal involving 11 Pacific rim countries, and the Pacific Alliance, a Latin American trade bloc formed by Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

Cordero called on South Korea to join the Pacific Alliance.

"(The alliance) has been a great success, and now we have four associate states -- Singapore, Australia, Canada and Malaysia," he said. "Korea is looking to be part of it. So it will be really important if Korea could be also an associate state in this Pacific Alliance."

   He also called for expanded cooperation between South Korea and Mexico in technology development, tourism and other areas.