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South Korean president calls for action on North Korea

In a speech marking his fourth year of presidency, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said that "it was time to take action", and sees his final year in office as the last chance to achieve peace with North Korea.

Photo: The Japan Times

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that his government will seek to find a way during the remainder of his presidency for restored talks between South Korea and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, and between North Korea and the US.

"I will consider the remaining one year of my term to be the last opportunity to move from an incomplete peace toward one that is irreversible," Moon said in a televised address to mark the fourth inauguration anniversary of his five-year tenure. He took office in May 2017, according to Xinhua.

"It is time to take action," Moon said hailing the Biden administration's North Korea policy, which he said aimed to "achieve the primary goal of the Korean Peninsula's complete denuclearization via diplomacy with a flexible, gradual and practical approach by building upon the foundation of the Singapore Declaration."

South Korean president calls for action on North Korea

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a news conference at the Blue House in Seoul, South Korea [Yonhap via Reuters]

The White House recently completed a review of Washington’s North Korea policy and suggested the Biden administration would seek a middle ground between Donald Trump’s “grand bargain” and Barack Obama’s “strategic patience” approaches as a way to curb Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

In his Monday speech, Moon said he welcomed the direction of the Biden administration’s North Korea policy, which he said was finalised after consultations with South Korea.

Moon said Biden’s policy aims to achieve “the Korean Peninsula’s complete denuclearisation through diplomacy with a flexible, gradual and practical approach”, Al Jazeera reported.

The Biden administration has not disclosed details of its policy review. But US officials have signalled they are trying to set the stage for incremental progress, in which denuclearisation steps by North Korea would be met with corresponding actions, including sanctions relief, rather than a Trump-style push for an immediate, comprehensive deal through a leader-to-leader summit.

Moon said when he meets Biden for their first summit talks in Washington, he will try to bolster the bilateral military alliance, boost policy coordination on North Korea and find ways to resume stalled talks between Washington and Pyongyang and between Seoul and Pyongyang.

“I will not be pressed by time or become impatient during the remainder of my term. However, if there is an opportunity to restart the clock of peace and advance the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, I will do everything I can,” Moon said.

“I look forward to North Korea responding positively.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday he sees his final year in office as the last chance to achieve a lasting peace with North Korea, and said it was time to take action amid stalled talks over Pyongyang's nuclear and missile programs. Photo: VCG

The South Korean president once shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to facilitate the now-dormant nuclear diplomacy between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Trump.

Inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation programmes also flourished.

But the Kim-Trump diplomacy eventually fell apart during their second summit in Vietnam in early 2019 due to wrangling over US-led sanctions on North Korea. Pyongyang later suspended communications with Seoul and halted all major joint cooperation programmes.

Kim’s government has not made an official response to the Biden administration’s North Korea policy review.

But his foreign ministry last week warned Washington of “a very grave situation” while criticising Biden for calling North Korea’s nuclear programme a serious security threat in an address to Congress.

In January, Kim said the fate of ties between North Korea and the US would depend on whether Washington would abandon what it considers a hostile policy on Pyongyang.

North Korea warns of 'crisis beyond control' in heated statements aimed at US and South Korea

North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un speaks in April 2018 in Panmunjom, South Korea. (Photo: CNN)

North Korea warned the United States it will face a "crisis beyond control in the near future" and accused South Korea of carrying out an "intolerable provocation" against Pyongyang in a series of statements released Sunday, comments that could set the stage for a showdown between the three countries, according to CNN.

In one statement, North Korea chided US President Joe Biden for saying, in a speech to Congress Thursday, Pyongyang's nuclear program presents "a serious threat to America's security and world security."

A separate statement accused the US of engaging in "political chicanery" last week, when the State Department called North Korea "one of the most repressive and totalitarian states in the world."

And a third statement attributed to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister, Kim Yo Jong, warned South Korea would face consequences after North Korean defectors used balloons to send leaflets into North Korean territory.

Biden and his South Korean counterpart, Moon Jae-in, are scheduled to meet in Washington later this month.

Kwon Jong Gun, the director general of the Department of US Affairs at North Korea's Foreign Ministry, said Biden's remarks on North Korea during his speech were a "big blunder" that was indicative of an "outdated policy from Cold War-minded perspective and viewpoint."

"His statement clearly reflects his intent to keep enforcing the hostile policy toward the DPRK as it had been done by the US for over half a century," Kwon said, using the acronym for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. "Now that what the keynote of the US new DPRK policy has become clear, we will be compelled to press for corresponding measures, and with time the US will find itself in a very grave situation."

Chau Polly

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