January 11, 2018 13:22
President Moon Jae-in in his New Year's press conference on Wednesday said, "The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was declared by the two Koreas, is a fundamental aim that can never be compromised." He added that inter-Korean relations cannot progress unless the nuclear standoff is resolved.
North Korea's position is that the nuclear issue involves only the U.S., while talks with South Korea should encompass only economic matters. But Moon has made it clear that he does not intend to dance to that tune. His comments will help ease many fears at home and abroad that Seoul could weaken international efforts to pressure North Korea for the sake of political gain at home.
Moon said he has no choice but to pursue both dialogue and pressure if the North does not show sincerity in addressing the nuclear problem. He added that Seoul has no intention to unilaterally ease sanctions against the North.
Signs are emerging that pressure on North Korea, which has accelerated under U.S. President Donald Trump, has reached a critical point. The North was hoping that the South would reopen the joint-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex and tours to the North's scenic Mt. Kumgang resort, which would help it earn some much-needed valuta, but Moon has assured everyone that this will not happen.
"I'm open to any type of meeting with North Korea," Moon said. But he stressed, "It is undesirable to hold a summit for the summit's sake." He explained that he would sit face to face with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un only if "conditions are met and productive results are guaranteed."
One of South Korea's two presidents who pursued rapprochement with the North brazenly lied to the nation to achieve a summit, while the other held a summit just before the end of his term and saddled the next administration with terms it could never meet. Moon probably knows full well what side effects a fixation on inter-Korean summits can cause. His remarks have eased fears that he will go down the same road. Let us hope that his determination lasts.
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