June 16, 2020 10:16
President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged North Korea to return to the dialogue table.
"The direction the two Koreas should go together is clear," he said in an online address marking the 20th anniversary of the historic inter-Korean summit between former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in Pyongyang on June 15, 2000. "We should not stop the current inter-Korean relations again, which have overcome a longtime severance and the crisis of a war."
The address comes at a time when North Korea is artificially ratcheting up tensions over South Korean activists sending helium balloons with propaganda leaflets across the border, threatening to cut all communication and warning of unspecified military action.
Moon reminded the North of the promises the two Korean leaders made during two summits in 2018, which constitute a "firm principle that shouldn't be swayed by any change in security conditions." He added the North should not try to put inter-Korean relations "back to the era of confrontation by cutting communication and creating tensions."
He acknowledged that international sanctions make cross-border cooperation difficult, but added, "We must continue, even at a slow pace, while trying to gain the cooperation of the international community."
"The time has come where we can't wait for conditions to get better. There must be things that the two Koreas can do on their own" to go forward, he added.
He did not respond directly to the North's latest threats of military action.
He admitted that he faces the 20th anniversary of the summit with a "heavy heart" but urged the North to have patience. "Just as a river curves but ultimately heads into the ocean, the South and North must take one step at a time and move forward with a positive attitude," he said.
"I am also disappointed that there has not been as much progress as hoped for in North Korea-U.S. relations and inter-Korean relations," he said. "We hope that the difficulties facing the two sides will be solved through communication and cooperation."
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said the South Korean government will "trudge on silently despite the wind and rain" and urged the North to recall the spirit of the first meeting between then-South Korean president Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il that paved the way for landmark rapprochement two decades ago.
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