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JH Ahn was an NK News contributor based in Seoul. He previously worked as an interpreter for United States Forces Korea.
The South Korean government’s policy of engagement and dialogue towards Pyongyang will remain mostly unchanged by North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) on Tuesday morning, a Ministry of Unification (MoU) spokesperson told press on Wednesday.
“The basis of the Seoul government’s North Korea policies will not change (because of this launch),” Lee Duk-haeng, a MoU spokesperson told media during a regular news briefing.
“To build a peaceful Korean Peninsula, we have to resolve the North’s nuclear issues through peaceful measures while simultaneously improving inter-Korean relations.”
But the MOU hinted that the test had prompted a decision to no longer publicize when Seoul grants permission to South Koreans to make contact with the North.
“There are cases when (publicizing) the permission for contact (with the North) turns out to be unhelpful in actually forwarding the (inter-Korean) contacts,” Lee said. “So we will no longer publicize them.”
This does not mean, however, that the MoU will cease or postpone these permissions, a press official from the ministry told NK News.
Since the Moon administration first gave permission to a South Korean NGO to make contact with its North Korean counterparts on May 26, the MoU has often publicized the progress of new inter-Korean exchanges.
A few hours after the ICBM launch on Tuesday morning, the MoU gave another permit allowing a South Korean NGO to make contact with the North, but refused to provide further details about the visit.
The statement that government policy will not change significantly in the aftermath of the test comes hours after Seoul and Washington conducted joint ballistic missile exercises, after which President Moon said now is “not a situation” to respond “only with statements.”
Lee told press, however, that there would be “no major changes” to “our pre-existing plan.”
“…strongly pressuring and sanctioning the North for its provocations, while continuing the efforts to open the door for the dialogue,” Lee said, remained Seoul’s approach.
Since his inauguration in May, Moon Jae-in has consistently stressed the need for dialogue with Pyongyang, in contrast to his more hardline predecessors.
But he has balanced this with tough talk after missile tests by Pyongyang. On Tuesday, Moon warned North Korea not to “cross the point it may never be able to return.”
“I am not certain how we might react, should the North crosses the red line, and not responding to the peaceful denuclearization process on the Korean Peninsula agreed by Seoul and Washington,” the President added.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Rodong Sinmun, Moon Jae-in’s Facebook, edited by NK News