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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korea successfully developing a nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) would be a “red line” for Seoul, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Thursday at a press conference marking his first 100 days in office.
“The red line is North Korea completing its development of ICBM and weaponizing it by mounting a nuclear warhead onto it,” Moon said.
“I think that the North has been reaching the threshold of this red line gradually. We should stop the North’s additional provocation at this stage.”
Moon warned that Pyongyang will face “more tough sanctions” if further tests were carried out – measures that, the President warned, the DPRK would not be “able to endure.”
A report by the Washington Post last week stated that U.S. officials now believe that North Korea has successfully produced a miniaturized nuclear warhead that could fit on a ballistic missile.
The South Korean President also said that the positions of Washington and Seoul “don’t differ fundamentally” on North Korea, arguing that both intend to “stop additional provocation” and to bring the North to negotiations through “strong pressure and sanctions.”
Trump appeared to escalate tensions on the Korean peninsula last Friday, when he tweeted that U.S. military options were “locked and loaded.”
Moon, however, today said that Trump’s warning to Pyongyang wasn’t meant to suggest that a military attack on North Korea was imminent.
“President Trump is trying to put pressure to the North by showing firm resolve,” Moon told around 250 reporters from local and foreign media outlets.
“I don’t believe that [Trump] did it with the will to launch a military action.”
Moon emphasized that he and Trump had “made a promise to fully consult in advance” if the U.S. were to engage in military action against North Korea.
The President, however, admitted that the U.S. would “take proper measures if the North continues provocative acts or launches an aggressive act” against the DPRK that may not involve South Korea.
“I am confident that the U.S. will discuss it with the South in advance even if the U.S. takes some military action outside the Korean peninsula and there is the concern that it can escalate tensions in inter-Korean relations,” he said.
Moon pledged that he would “prevent a war at any cost,” and told reporters that “I confidently say that there will be no war on the Korean peninsula ever again.”
Moon reiterated comments made on Monday that only the South can make a decision about military action on the Korean peninsula and that war would not take place “without consent” from Seoul.
Dr. Andrei Lankov, director of Korea Risk Group, which owns and manages NK News and NK Pro, said the remarks are a “necessary warning” toward Washington “considering the national interests of the Republic of Korea (ROK).”
“President Trump and his aides are aware of that the preemptive strike is very dangerous, and therefore the U.S. is less likely to launch such a preemptive strike than the previous two or three months as far as I know,” Lankov told NK News.
“From the perspective of the ROK, it is still a problem, even if the possibility is not high, as it is almost certain that such a preemptive strike would cause a massive war on the Korean peninsula,” he said. “Because of that, President Moon has plenty of reasons to warn [the U.S.]”
Although Pyongyang has remained silent on Seoul’s offer to hold working-level military talks and Red Cross talks on the reunion of separated families, the President said he would consider dispatching a special envoy to Pyongyang under the right circumstances.
“A dialogue should be resumed between the South and the North. But I don’t think we need to rush on it,” Moon said, maintaining that it would take “a lot of effort and time” to achieve inter-Korean talks.
Moon said that dialogue “can’t be an aim itself,” that conditions “should be established” to allow a “fruitful result should be guaranteed.”
“I think the atmosphere for conversation can be created if the North stops further provocations,” he added.
“I believe that we can fully consider sending a special envoy to the North when the conditions for the dialogue is established and it is judged that [the dispatch] is helpful to improving the inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House