Moon says he will pave way to peace on Korean Peninsula ahead of US visit

Posted on : 2021-05-11 17:36 KST Modified on : 2021-05-11 17:36 KST
"It's time to take action," the South Korean president said in a special address
People gather around a television in Seoul Station to watch South Korean President Moon Jae-in deliver an address marking his fourth year in office on Monday. (Kim Bong-gyu/The Hankyoreh)
People gather around a television in Seoul Station to watch South Korean President Moon Jae-in deliver an address marking his fourth year in office on Monday. (Kim Bong-gyu/The Hankyoreh)

In a special address Monday to mark his fourth year in office and a Q&A session with reporters afterward, South Korean President Moon Jae-in looked back on the ups and downs experienced by South and North Korea and the US in the Korean Peninsula peace process since he took office.

In his remarks, Moon said that he "look[s] forward to North Korea responding positively."

Noting that the administration of US President Joe Biden had completed its review of North Korea policy, Moon said that "the time for long deliberations is [. . .] coming to an end."

"It is time to take action," he added. "I will consider the remaining one year of my term to be the last opportunity to move from an incomplete peace toward one that is irreversible."

Commenting on the direction taken by the US with its North Korea policy after "close consultation" with Seoul, Moon said he "welcome[d]" its decision to pursue an approach that "aims to achieve the primary goal of the Korean Peninsula's complete denuclearization through diplomacy with a flexible, gradual and practical approach by building upon the foundation of the Singapore agreement [of 2018]."

He also said he plans to use a South Korea-US summit scheduled for May 21 to "restore dialogue between the two Koreas and between the United States and North Korea and find a way to step once again toward peaceful cooperation by more closely coordinating policies toward North Korea."

His remarks suggest that the conditions are in place for resuming dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang based on the outline of the North Korea policy shared by the US.

At the same time, he said, "I will not be pressed by time or become impatient during the remainder of my term."

"However, if there is an opportunity to restart the clock of peace and advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything I can," he continued.

His remarks were read as a call for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to take part in dialogue, stressing that there would be no way out of the current impasse if Pyongyang does not agree to talk.

"We've seen various responses from North Korea, but I don't see those responses from North Korea as being rejections of dialogue," he said. "Perhaps North Korea will also spend some time now making a final determination."

Moon also raised eyebrows with his remarks that it was "never desirable to dampen inter-Korean relations by violating inter-Korean agreements and current laws."

"I stress that the Government has no choice but to strictly enforce the laws," he said.

His remarks read as a warning in response to recent claims by some defector groups that they launched balloons carrying propaganda leaflets to North Korea — at a time when such launches have been cited as a factor in the souring of inter-Korean relations.

Indeed, in a personal statement on May 2, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's sister Kim Yo-jong said Pyongyang was considering "corresponding action" over Seoul's "silent approval" of the leaflet scattering.

Moon's comments appeared to be based on a determination that any "action" against South Korea by the North because of the leaflet issue needs to be averted ahead of a South Korea-US summit that stands to determine the course of the Korean Peninsula's political situation.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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