June 19, 2017 11:46
A special adviser to President Moon Jae-in has ruffled feathers during a visit to Washington by calling for nuclear-powered aircraft carriers to be kept away from the Korean Peninsula and downplaying the importance of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery being stationed here.
"It's unnecessary to deploy a super-carrier and a nuclear submarine" during annual U.S.-South Korea joint exercises, Moon Chung-in said during the visit ahead of President Moon's summit with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. "Tension on the peninsula could be eased if those U.S. strategic assets are scaled down to the level they were before 2010."
Regarding the controversy over the THAAD deployment, the adviser added, "There's talk that our alliance will break up if THAAD-related issues are not resolved. I wonder if such relations could really be considered an alliance."
A spokesman for the U.S. State Department told Voice of America that the comments were Moon Chung-in's "personal opinion" and do not necessarily reflect the official stance of his government.
The State Department added that the joint military exercises are aimed at defending the South and the Northeast Asian region.
Seeking to quell the controversy, a Cheong Wa Dae official said many of the comments were the personal opinion of the adviser as an academic and not Cheong Wa Dae's official stance. "Such issues require the two governments' agreement," he said.
Moon Chung-in made the remarks in a meeting with South Korean correspondents at the Wilson Center. He also said that if North Korea halts its nuclear weapons and missile tests, South Korea is willing to discuss with the U.S. the possibility of scaling down joint military exercises.
He said those were his personal opinions but added it "would not be wrong" to say that President Moon agrees. He added that North Korea seems to have been provoked into its recent frenzied missile tests by the deployment of the U.S. aircraft carriers and bombers to the Korean Peninsula.
Asked about the prospect of inter-Korean talks, the envoy said Seoul will find it hard to accept Washington's refusal of dialogue with Pyongyang until it scraps its nuclear weapons program. "We do not need to meet the terms of any U.S.-North Korea agreements in holding talks between South and North," he added.
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