Moon still pos­i­tive about NK-US talks

Pres­i­dent cites need to ex­empt North from UN sanc­tions

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Do Je-hae [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in said dur­ing a New Year press con­fer­ence at Cheong Wa Dae, Tues­day, that he re­mains pos­i­tive about the North Korea-U.S. de­nu­cle­ariza­tion talks as the lead­ers of the two coun­tries are still open for di­a­logue.

The South Korean leader also cited the need to ap­ply for a par­tial ex­emp­tion to U.N. sanc­tions for more en­gage­ment with North Korea and to move the North Korea-U.S. ne­go­ti­a­tions for­ward.

De­spite the dead­lock be­tween Py­ongyang and Wash­ing­ton, Moon stressed a pos­i­tive out­look, de­fy­ing the mount­ing con­cerns that the past two years of talks be­tween the two foes in the Korean War will ul­ti­mately fail to end North Korea’s nu­clear pro­grams.

“Re­gard­ing the South-North or North Korea-U.S. talks, it is nei­ther time to be op­ti­mistic or pes­simistic,” Moons said.

He ac­knowl­edged the con­tro­versy re­gard­ing U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s birth­day mes­sage to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. “When my na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Chung Eui-yong vis­ited the U.S. for a Korea-U.S.-Ja­pan se­cu­rity meet­ing, Pres­i­dent Trump called in Chung unan­nounced and asked him to de­liver the birth­day wishes. Pres­i­dent Trump must have thought that this was not enough, so he also sent a let­ter to Kim,” Moon said.

“I think this is a very pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment. It was a very good idea to stress the res­o­lu­tion for di­a­logue by send­ing the con­grat­u­la­tory mes­sage. Upon re­ceiv­ing the let­ter, North Korea also re­it­er­ated the close re­la­tion­ship be­tween the two lead­ers and made it clear that it had not closed the door com­pletely on di­a­logue, although it did at­tach a pre­con­di­tion that its de­mands must be met.

“At the time of the let­ter, the U.S. was fac­ing a lot of com­plex sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing the con­flict with Iran, and the fact Trump sent Kim a birth­day mes­sage means that Pres­i­dent Trump still re­gards North Korea as the most im­por­tant is­sue on his diplo­matic agenda.”

The Pres­i­dent re­peated his stance on pro­mot­ing ac­tive en­gage­ment with North Korea this year, which was con­tained in his New Year ad­dress de­liv­ered last week. In this re­gard, the South Korean leader men­tioned the need to ease some of the U.N. sanc­tions im­posed on the reclu­sive regime.

“I be­lieve we can make ef­forts for ex­cep­tions from U.N. sanc­tions if nec­es­sary,” Moon said.

“Rather than look­ing just at North Korea-U.S. talks, we should do as much as we can to ex­pand in­ter-Korean co­op­er­a­tion. This will also be help­ful in pro­mot­ing North Korea-U.S. di­a­logue.”

He men­tioned sports and tourism ex­changes as well as start­ing co­op­er­a­tion at the in­ter-Korean bor­der as some of the ways to ex­pand in­ter-Korean co­op­er­a­tion within the bound­aries of the sanc­tions.

Moon also called on the U.S. to con­sider a dif­fer­ent ap­proach from its fo­cus on these. “The U.S. needs to con­tin­u­ously seek new ideas, in close co­op­er­a­tion with South Korea, for a break­through in the North Korea-U.S. talks,” the Pres­i­dent said.

He showed a neg­a­tive re­sponse to crit­i­cism that his re­cent call for ex­pe­dit­ing en­gage­ment with North Korea was be­ing snubbed by Py­ongyang. “In in­ter-Korean diplo­macy, there is much more than what is ac­tu­ally vis­i­ble.

“In­ter-Korean re­la­tions are fac­ing dif­fi­cul­ties as they co­in­cide with the stale­mate in the North-U.S. di­a­logue, but I am push­ing for­ward with an op­ti­mistic view that ef­forts to work to­gether through di­a­logue are con­tin­u­ing and can pro­duce good re­sults.”

Korea-US al­liance Con­cerns have been ris­ing about the health of Korea-U.S. al­liance due to com­plex bi­lat­eral is­sues, such as the de­fense cost-shar­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and the U.S pres­sure on Korea to join its naval mis­sion in the Strait of Hor­muz. Moon sought to as­suage these con­cerns by un­der­lin­ing that the Korea-U.S. al­liance re­mains “stronger than ever with close com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­op­er­a­tion.”

“Close com­mu­ni­ca­tion and co­op­er­a­tion have led to the im­prove­ment of in­ter-Korean re­la­tions and re­sulted in U.S.-North Korea di­a­logue,” Moon added. “Look­ing back at 2017 at the height of the cri­sis on the Korean Penin­sula fol­low­ing Py­ongyang’s nu­clear and mis­sile tests, I had three sum­mits with Pres­i­dent Trump and talked on the phone with him seven times.

Through these, we came to a de­ci­sion to post­pone a joint Korea-U.S. mil­i­tary ex­er­cise to pave the way for North Korea’s par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Pyeong-Chang Win­ter Olympic Games. Af­ter this, in­ter-Korean di­a­logue be­gan, which led to the talks be­tween North Korea and the U.S.” Cur­rently, the big­gest is­sue be­tween Korea and the U.S. is the Spe­cial Mea­sures Agree­ment (SMA) ne­go­ti­a­tions to de­ter­mine Korea’s share of costs for main­tain­ing U.S. troops here and the pos­si­ble dis­patch of a Korean naval unit to the Strait of Hor­muz to join­ing a U.S.led mis­sion.

Yon­hap

Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in points to re­porters to pose ques­tions dur­ing a New Year press con­fer­ence at Cheong Wa Dae, Tues­day.

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