South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday said North Korea wants to join international financial institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, telling an audience in New York that DPRK leader Kim Jong Un hopes to trade his nuclear weapons for economic development.
Speaking at a discussion hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Asia Society Policy Institute, and Korea Society, Moon said Seoul plans to support the DPRK’s national economic development should sanctions be lifted following “substantive denuclearization.”
“South Korea intends to take the initiative in putting its weight behind the North Korean economic development, including in the construction of infrastructure,” the South Korean President said. “I believe that will also provide fresh vitality and growth for the South Korean economy.”
The South Korean President said, however, that there would be “a number of limitations” should Seoul work to help Pyongyang’s national economic development, stressing the necessity for support from international financial institutions.
“I think international funds supporting North Korea’s infrastructure will need to be created,” Moon added. “Other international agencies including the WB (World Bank), the World Economic Forum, and the Asian Development Bank should aid North Korea.”
Pyongyang is willing to accept support from international organizations, Moon said, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“I’ve confirmed that the North Korean side has the will to engage in reform and opening by joining several international organizations such as IMF and World Bank,” he said.
South Korean finance minister Kim Dong-yeon in May announced that Seoul was seeking shortcuts to allow North Korea to receive funding and support from International Financial Institutions (IFIs), including the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
Last week’s Pyongyang Joint Declaration saw the two Koreas agree to boost economic cooperation, with plans to resume work at the now-shuttered Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and Mount Kumgang tourism when the circumstances allow it.
In his speech on Tuesday, Moon said these projects will “give new growth opportunities” for U.S. and South Korean companies.
When asked why Kim Jong Un has chosen a different path from his father, the late North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Moon said Tuesday that Kim the younger’s attitude was very different from his predecessors.
“From my own experience, and as you’ve seen [through the live-broadcast of the summit], Chairman Kim has a very open and direct manner and is polite, treating elders with respect even though he is young,” Moon said in his discussion. “He has also a very strong will to economically develop North Korea.”
Citing Kim’s comments, Moon restated his belief that Kim Jong Un has a “sincere desire to abandon nuclear weapons” in exchange for economic development once the U.S. provides security guarantees.
“I’m well aware that many people all around the world say they can’t still trust North Korea, or it’s trick, or it’s an attempt to buy time despite North Korea hasn’t taken various measures for denuclearization,” Moon quoted Kim as having told him.
Pyongyang has nothing to gain from swindling or buying time, the North Korean leader reportedly said.
“The U.S. will make strong retaliation if we do, and how can we handle such retaliation? Please believe [our] sincerity this time,” Kim was said to have added.
In a separate interview with Fox News, Moon on Tuesday also said the denuclearization process will be accelerated if the U.S. commits to providing Pyongyang with security guarantees and re-establishes DPRK-U.S. diplomatic relations.
“This is why I believe the North’s timetable for completing the denuclearization within the first term of President Trump is not something that’s unachievable,” Moon said in a full text of the interview provided by the South Korean presidential office.
Moon also said that the “corresponding measures” mentioned in the Pyongyang Joint Declaration as a condition for the full decommissioning of the Yongbyon nuclear research center wouldn’t necessary mean the relaxation of sanctions.
The U.S. could take various measures to end hostile relations, he explained, including an end-of-war declaration, humanitarian assistance, the establishment of a liaison office in Pyongyang, and exchanges of economic delegations and art troupes.
In his interview, Moon said he had “sufficient discussions with President Trump” on prospects for an end-of-war declaration during Monday’s ROK-U.S. summit, expressing his hope that the issue will be discussed at an upcoming, but not formerly scheduled, Trump-Kim meeting.
“I am not sure if the result of the summit leads to the declaration of the end to the war,” Moon said. “But I think there has been a consensus that it’s desirable to declare the end to the war at the earliest possible time… as a symbol of settling the hostile relations between the U.S. and North Korea.”
The South Korean President also reiterated his view that a peace treaty will have no impact on the stationing of United States Forces Korea (USFK).
“I believe the United States Forces Korea will need to stay after a peace treaty is signed, and even after the two Koreas achieve unification, for the stability and peace of entire Northeast Asia,” he said.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Pyeongyang Press Corps