South Korea’s new president said Thursday his government is open to holding direct talks with North Korea if the Kim Jong-un regime in Pyongyang puts a halt on its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile tests.
Moon Jae-in, who swept to power in Seoul last month on a promise to pursue a new era of dialogue with the North, said the South believes there can be peace on the Korean peninsula — and even normalized U.S.-North Korea relations — if Pyongyang is willing to abandon its nuclear program.
“We will be able to comprehensively discuss complete dismantlement of North Korean nukes and the establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, as well as normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations,” Mr. Moon said.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reported that Mr. Moon made the remarks during a speech marking the 17th anniversary of the historic inter-Korean summit the occurred in 2000.
The summit 17 years ago was a high-water mark for dialogue between North and South during the decades since the 1950-1953 war that divided the Koreas. The dialogue broke down during the decade that followed, with six-party talks among China, the U.S., North and South Korea, Japan and Russia collapsing in 2009 amid Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear tests in defiance of U.N. resolutions.
North Korea has conducted an increasing number of missile tests since then, carrying out five launches since May 10 — and concerns are high among security analysts that Pyongyang may soon possess a nuclear-tipped ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland.
Mr. Moon, a former backer of the so-called “Sunshine Policy” of diplomatic outreach to North Korea, has said dialogue with Pyongyang is the only alternative to a total security meltdown on the Korean peninsula.
There have been concerns the South Korean president’s promise to push a conciliatory policy toward North Korea may clash with the more bare-knuckle approach so far being pursued by the Trump administration. But in his comments Thursday, Mr. Moon suggested there are certain demands Pyongyang must meet in order for serious dialogue to occur.
“I make it clear that if North Korea stops making additional nuclear and missile provocations, we can come to dialogue with North Korea without conditions,” he said. “I use this opportunity to once again urge the North. North Korea must give up its nuclear development and find ways to work with the international community.”