Improving relations with the North cannot be separated from resolving North Korean nuclear issue
President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that South Korea will approach the North Korean nuclear issue with both engagement and pressure, and that cooperation with the US has been critical in inter-Korean relations.
“The purpose of sanctions and pressure is to bring North Korea to dialogue, (but) it cannot be said that dialogue is the only solution,” Moon said at the New Year’s press conference held Wednesday at the Blue House.
While Seoul will engage the North and endeavor to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue, international sanctions will continue should Pyongyang carry out another provocation or show lack of sincerity, he added.
“(South Korea) also cannot avoid using both means. (The government) is open to all dialogue, including summit talks if it is deemed beneficial to inter-Korean relations, but talks for the sake of talks cannot be the goal.”
Saying that South Korea and the US have a common understanding on security issues, and both face North Korean missile and nuclear threats, Moon highlighted the importance of the Seoul-Washington alliance and cooperation.
“South Korea and the US have been working together closely in responding to the North Korean nuclear issue,” Moon said, adding that Tuesday’s inter-Korean talks may have been the result of US-led international pressure.
The South Korean president went on to stress that Seoul and Washington fully agree on resolving the issue through peaceful means.
He also stressed that the allies have no differences regarding Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile provocations. In addition, Moon thanked US President Donald Trump for playing a “very big” role in bringing about inter-Korean talks.
Regarding measures taken by previous South Korean administrations, he said that they cannot be rescinded unilaterally by Seoul, but he believes that the “two-track” approach will create a cycle of positive feedback.
Measures imposed by previous governments include the closing down of the inter-Korean Kaesong industrial park and prohibition of cross-border economic activities.
“Improving relations with the North cannot be separated from resolving the North Korean nuclear issue,” Moon said. He added that improvements in inter-Korean relations will help to resolve the nuclear problem and that inter-Korean relations will be improved by progress in resolving the nuclear issue.
“What we can do for the time being is induce the North to engage in denuclearization talks, through dialogue aimed at improving inter-Korean relations. If such outcome is achieved, (the) Kaesong complex and Geumgangsan tour issues will be considered within that framework.”
In his New Year’s speech, which emphasized economic issues, Moon said that he would try to make 2018 a turning point in establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula.
A joint South-North statement released after inter-Korean talks Tuesday stated that the two Koreas will resolve related matters by themselves. However, Moon said that he would increase cooperation with the countries concerned.
“I will do my best to make this year a new start for peace on the Korean Peninsula. In the process, I will cooperate more closely with related countries, including our ally, the US, China and Japan, and the rest of the international community,” Moon said.
“I stress once again; the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is a process toward peace and a goal at the same time. The denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which was declared by the two Koreas, is our fundamental position that can never be compromised.”
On economic issues, Moon focused on job-creation plans and employment security saying that the idea of a “people-centered economy” is central to his administration’s economic policies.
Moon also played down concerns raised by those opposing the minimum wage hike, saying that similar concerns were raised in other countries, and in the past, but the negative effects were short-lived.
This year, the minimum wage is set at 7,530 won ($7) per hour, up 16.4 percent from last year. While the Moon administration hopes to raise the figure to 10,000 won, naysayers claim that such a rapid increase would cut jobs and burden smaller businesses.
Moon also touched on the drive to reform large conglomerates, saying that planned measures will reduce unfairness in the market without hurting large companies.
Measures include those aimed at preventing in-house trading among affiliates, and shoring up shareholders’ voting rights.
“This is not intended to suppress or shrink business activities. On the contrary, it is believed that it will help sharpen the global competitive edge of large conglomerates,” Moon said.
At the press conference, Moon also touched on revising the Constitution and putting the matter to a referendum at the same time as the June 13 local elections.
“Holding the local elections and constitutional revision referendum together is a promise made to the people,” Moon said in his New Year’s speech, adding that all political parties and their presidential candidates had agreed to the plan in last year’s presidential elections.
Highlighting that holding a separate referendum would cost the country some 120 billion won ($111 million), Moon urged the National Assembly to reach an agreement on the issue.
In the press conference, Moon said that the views of the people must be reflected in the revision bill and that the government would make preparations.