About the Author
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday said North Korea must take steps to “drastically” denuclearize, saying relief from international sanctions would only come following “substantive” steps from Pyongyang.
Speaking at a 120-minute New Year news conference, Moon said the speed at which sanctions on North Korea are eased would depend on how fast North Korea chooses to denuclearize.
“To resolve the issue of sanctions on North Korea swiftly, Pyongyang needs to take substantive measures towards denuclearization drastically,” Moon told a press briefing.
“If Pyongyang takes such actions, corresponding measures should be devised as well, to continuously accelerate and encourages the North’s denuclearization.”
The two issues will likely be the “most significant” issue at an upcoming second DPRK-U.S. summit, he added.
When asked about what steps should be taken by the North, Moon said Pyongyang has already committed to the permanent dismantlement of the Tongchang-ri missile test engine site and nuclear facilities at Yongbyon.
In addition, Moon said, Pyongyang could “discard its ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) or IRBMs (intermediate-range ballistic missiles), end the production of missiles, and by extension, demolish other nuclear complexes.”
If Washington takes corresponding measures and both can establish trust, Moon said denuclearization process could move ahead quickly.
“My view is that the DPRK-U.S. summit will serve as the venue where both negotiate… over what kind of concrete and corresponding measures will be taken respectively by North Korea and the U.S.,” he said.
Washington and Pyongyang previously came to an “abstract agreement” over these topics as an outcome of the first meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in June last year, the South Korean President told reporters.
But the ROK President admitted to shortcomings in the first summit in Singapore, saying he now believes the DPRK and the U.S. must agree on “concrete measures.”
Pyongyang knows it must take “more obvious steps” towards denuclearization to ensure the lifting of international sanctions, Moon said, while stressing Washington also understands the necessity of corresponding measures to push the North in the right direction.
“Both have asked their counterpart to take action first as they do not have confidence in each other due to distrust accumulated over a long time,” he said, telling reporters this is a primary reason why a second DPRK-U.S. summit has been postponed.
If a second DPRK-U.S. summit takes place “before long,” Moon continued, it could serve to build trust and develop forward momentum towards denuclearization and peace.
Kim Jong Un’s fourth meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping this week is a “sign” that a second DPRK-U.S. summit will take place in the near future, the President argued, adding he expects high-level talks to be held “soon” in preparation for that event.
Kim’s state visit to Beijing comes as the U.S. and North Korea begin talks over potential locations for an upcoming second summit between the DPRK leader and U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Chairman Kim’s visit to China will very positively affect the success of the DPRK-U.S. summit,” Moon said, praising Beijing’s positive role in the denuclearization process and in the establishment of a peace regime on the peninsula.
The South Korean President also at Thursday’s event stressed there is “no difference” between Pyongyang’s understanding of “complete denuclearization” and that of the international community.
On the status of the United States Forces Korea (USFK) and the United Nations Command (UNC) on the peninsula, Moon reiterated his position that there is no connection between their status and plans for a declaration to end the Korean War or the denuclearization process.
“The issue of maintaining USFK after declaring the end of the war and signing a peace treaty entirely depends on the decision of both South Korea and the U.S.,” he said. “Kim Jong Un is well-aware of that.”
U.S. strategic assets deployed on military bases in Guam and Japan, among others, do not solely target the DPRK, he said, arguing their presence also aims to maintain stability and peace in Northeast Asia.
The likelihood that North Korea will demand their withdrawal as part of corresponding measures from the U.S. – a possibility seemingly laid out in a commentary from Pyongyang last month – is “not high,” Moon stressed.
In contrast with Moon’s comments, the North Korean leader in his New Year’s speech argued that joint military exercises with foreign countries on the peninsula “should no longer be permitted.”
The DPRK leader also called for a complete end to the deployment of “war equipment including strategic assets from the outside.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Blue House