About the Author
View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday said he is ready to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at any time, but that talks could only happen if certain conditions are met.
His comments came as part of the President’s New Year’s press conference, a day after high-level inter-Korean talks at the truce village of Panmunjom.
“I am open to any form of meeting, including a summit, if these are necessary to improve inter-Korean relations and resolve the North Korean nuclear issue,” Moon told more than 200 reporters at the Blue House.
“But there should be conditions for the summit to take place, and the results should be guaranteed to some extent,” he said. “If conditions are met and there are hopes, I am ready to engage in the summit at any time.”
Moon also warned his government would impose “tougher pressure and sanctions” on Pyongyang if the DPRK carried out “another provocation” or didn’t demonstrate “sincerity.”
“We can’t say that dialogue is the sole solution,” he said.
Heightened sanctions and pressure could lead to an “increase in tension and accidental clashes,” Moon admitted, while saying their purpose was to make the North “come forward to the dialogue.”
“We should be concerned about how to draw North Korea to dialogue while managing the tensions properly and preventing accidental conflict,” he said, when asked about a possible split between Seoul and Washington over the issue of inter-Korean dialogue.
While Moon admitted that Tuesday’s inter-Korean talks were aimed at improving relations, he said Seoul’s long-term goal remained dialogue on denuclearization.
North Korean delegates ruled out the possibility of discussing the nuclear issue with the South at the inter-Korean meeting on Tuesday.
But Wednesday saw Moon reiterate his position that the issue of improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the nuclear issue “can’t go separately.”
“The denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, which was declared by the two Koreas, is our fundamental position that can never be compromised,” he said.
Moon said the U.S. policy of maximum pressure had contributed to the renewed DPRK-ROK dialogue.
The President said there is “no difference of opinion” between the allies, and that the Moon administration would use inter-Korean meetings as an “opportunity to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through dialogue by extension.”
Trump on Saturday told reporters that the two Koreans “wouldn’t be talking at all right now” without U.S. pressure.
“I think President Trump has a very big credit for holding the South-North talks,” Moon said on Wednesday. “I’d like to express my gratitude to him.”
Emphasizing the importance of ongoing cooperation with Washington, Moon denied reports that Seoul was considering lifting sanctions temporarily in preparation for a North Korean delegation’s participation in the upcoming PyeongChang Olympics.
“Although dialogue with North Korea has resumed, South Korea will keep pace with the international community over sanctions as the North Korean nuclear issue hasn’t been resolved,” he said.
“We don’t have any plan to unilaterally ease sanctions on the North separate from the international sanctions.”
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Tuesday said Seoul would continue to “faithfully” implement sanctions on the North and that DPRK participation in the games would be conducted in close consultation with ROK allies.
“If prior measures are necessary regarding the North Korean delegation’s visit to the South, we will review it in close cooperation with concerned countries including the U.S. and the United Nations sanctions committee,” foreign ministry spokesman Roh Kyu-deok said during a regular news briefing.
Wednesday saw the South Korean President reiterate that any reduction in unilateral sanctions, or the reopening of shuttered inter-Korean economic and tourist projects, would have to be done with the rules imposed by international sanctions in mind.
Seoul will only review the resumption of economic cooperation when North Korea expresses a willingness to discuss denuclearisation, he added, while adding that the Olympics could provide an impetus for further inter-Korean cooperation.
“If peace begins in PyeongChang, I will turn it into a stable system that takes root,” Moon said. “To solve the North Korean nuclear issue and settle peace, I will pursue more dialogue and cooperative projects.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House