The Punxsutawney Spirit

S Korea’s Moon calls for peace with North in farewell speech

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s departing liberal president defended his policy of engaging North Korea, saying in his farewell speech Monday that he hopes efforts to restore peace and denucleari­zation on the Korean Peninsula will continue.

Moon Jae-in leaves office Tuesday following a single five-year term, handing over presidenti­al power and responsibi­lities to conservati­ve Yoon Suk Yeol, who has accused him of being “subservien­t” to North Korea and promised to take a tougher stance on the North’s nuclear program.

“Peace is the condition for our survival and prosperity. I heartily hope that efforts to resume dialogue between South and North Korea and establish denucleari­zation and peace would continue,” Moon said in the nationally televised speech.

When Moon — a dove who favors greater rapprochem­ent between the rival Koreas — took office in 2017, he found little room to maneuver diplomatic­ally because of North Korea’s torrid run of nuclear and missile tests. But he eventually seized an opportunit­y to reconcile with North Korea when its leader Kim Jong Un abruptly reached out to Seoul and Washington in early 2018 for talks on the future of its advancing nuclear arsenal.

Kim first sent his powerful sister to South Korea for talks with Moon and to let her to attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in South Korea in February 2018. The two Korean leaders met three times for summits later in 2018, taking steps to lower tensions at the border and allowing rare exchange programs involving singers, basketball teams and others. Moon also lobbied hard to broker now-stalled nuclear diplomacy between Kim and then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

But after the North Korea-U.S. diplomacy collapsed in 2019, Moon has faced withering criticism that his engagement policy only helped North Korea buy time and perfect its weapons program in the face of U.S.-led sanctions and pressure campaign on the North.

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