Moon Chung-in says US must be consulted on any reduction of military exercises

Posted on : 2017-06-21 13:41 KST Modified on : 2017-06-21 13:41 KST
Special aide’s recent comments about scaling down caused a stir; Moon insists he was just speaking as a professor
Special presidential aide for unification
Special presidential aide for unification

Special presidential aide for unification, foreign affairs, and national security Moon Chung-in stressed that any scaling down of joint South Korea-US military exercises was a matter of negotiation and would require “full consultation” with the US.

Moon was responding to the controversy surrounding his remarks in Washington on June 16, when he suggested joint exercises might be reduced in exchange for a freeze in North Korea’s nuclear program.

“What I talked about [with] the South Korean media people is [that] the immediate goal of our efforts should be freezing North Korean nuclear and missile activities, and in return we could scale down our joint military exercises and training,” Moon explained at an Asia Society seminar in Manhattan on June 19 on the topic “Crisis on the Peninsula: Implications for the US-Korean Alliance.”

“Of course, our ultimate goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula but we can start with freezing activities,” he added.

Moon’s remarks were aimed at countering arguments that his proposal placed more emphasis on freezing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs than on ending them.

“Some of our friends in South Korea are extremely sensitive to the term ‘scaling down’ of our local [South Korean] US joint military exercises and training, but I think negotiation is all about give and take,” Moon said, adding that this was the approach of “two-party negotiations.”

“Of course, there should be full consultation with the United States. South Korea cannot take unilateral action, because the exercise itself is [a] combined forces exercise,” he added, in remarks that could be seen as rebutting claims his proposal could lead to fractures in the South Korea-US alliance.

The notion that a diplomatic approach involves compromise and tradeoffs on major areas of attention is considered common sense. In a talk held by one Washington think tank on June 13, former US Secretary of Defense William Perry stressed, “The diplomatic approach means listening and listening some more. We first need to hear what North Korea’s primary interest is.”

The message is that this should be used as a basis for a mutual approach.

Moon stressed that President Moon Jae-in “wants to find a way of reducing tensions on the Korean Peninsula.”

“President Moon wants peace, but his first emphasis is on security,” he added.

“South Korea shut down the Kaesong Industrial Complex and tourism at Mt. Keumkang,” he noted, adding that Seoul was “participating in the policies of ‘maximum pressure’ against North Korea.”

Responding to a question about perceptions of US President Donald Trump in South Korea, Moon Chung-in said, “I was very worried about President Trump at first.”

“But when I saw his summits with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, I could see that President Trump is a very practical leader,” he added.

“President Trump will like President Moon,” he predicted, adding that “we can look forward to a productive summit.”

Apparently conscious that his remarks might be interpreted as Seoul’s official position, Moon stressed that his ideas were his “personal thoughts as a professor, not the thoughts of the Moon Jae-in administration.” When one of the questioners addressed him as a “special aide,” he asked to be referred to as a “professor” instead.

By Yi Yong-in, Washington correspondent

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)