Moon expects concrete outcome at North Korea-US summit
Andrew Salmon/ Asia Times
South Korean president upbeat on imminent North Korea-US summit, combative toward Japan and bullish on innovation and high technology investments
South Korean president Moon Jae-in predicted that following Kim Jong Un’s visit to China this week, a second US-North Korea summit is imminent, and he expects more concrete outcomes from that meeting than the first, held in Singapore last June.
Moon, speaking at his annual New Year’s press conference, added that the presence of US troops in South Korea and around the region was not linked to North Korea’s denuclearization, but added that the US needed to come up with corresponding measures to encourage North Korea.
He also discussed his plans and hopes for the national economy, with the focus being on innovation, technology, job growth and social welfare spending.
However, he was in a take-no-prisoners mode on the dire state of relations between Seoul and Tokyo.
Second summit soon
“Chairman Kim Jong Un’s visit to China is, in short, a signal that the second North Korea-US summit is going to happen in the near future,” he said, adding “the very near future.”
Kim has just returned home after a surprisingly short overnight visit to China, which he took by train reportedly accompanied by high-level officials. The trip was businesslike: As well as meeting President Xi Jinping for talks, Kim visited a traditional medicine factory.
Moon said that in the second summit, Pyongyang should come up with “drastic measures” on denuclearization, adding that he thought the second summit should include “clear and specific” agreements.
While nothing has been confirmed, there are indications that Hanoi, Vietnam, may be the setting for the next summit.
The first North Korea-US summit, in Singapore last June, ended with a broadly aspirational, but non-detailed declaration, lacking binding measures or timelines. In the months since, progress has ground to a virtual standstill.
“North Korea knows that for the international sanctions to be lifted, they have to do more on denuclearization, and from the US side, they need to come up with counter-measures that befit North Korea’s endeavors,” he said.As for the issue of what denuclearization should involve, Moon cited the halting of missile launches and nuclear tests, the closure of the main North Korean nuclear facility at Yongbyon, the admission of international monitors and the dismantlement of ICBMs and missile assembly lines.Moon said it was his belief that Kim’s understanding of what denuclearization meant was in synch with the understanding of other global leaders. And contrary to a detailed commentary on the issue published in North Korean media late last year, “denuclearization of the Korean peninsula” – the Pyongyang-preferred term that was used in the Singapore summit declaration – did not encompass US troops and assets in South Korea or around the region, Moon said.
“Chairman Kim, when it comes to denuclearization and to an end-of-war treaty as well, thinks these are separate from US forces in Korea, so USFK is not linked to the denuclearization process of the Korean peninsula,” Moon said.
North Korea investment
Calling potential South Korean investment in North Korea “a new wind,” Moon said: “This is a unique opportunity that only we possess … I don’t know when we can utilize this opportunity, but this is definitely a blessing for our economy.”
And while he expressed hopes for the reopening of a South Korean factory zone and tourism complex inside North Korea, he conceded that sanctions make economic exchanges impossible at present.
“There is nothing we can do at this moment, but we are making all preparatory measures, so we will be able to start the moment that sanctions are relieved,” he said.Meanwhile, Seoul-Tokyo relations are in tatters. One dispute centers on whether, as Tokyo insists, a Korean destroyer “painted” a Japanese aircraft last month with its targeting radar.Another involves the decision by a South Korean court, this week, to enable asset seizures from Japanese companies in Korea to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during World War II.