In an interview with The Korea Herald on Monday, the leading candidate said South Korea has been reduced to a “spectator” in the issue of its own survival, pledging to step up diplomacy and take the lead in any talks for peace on the peninsula.
“The issue of the Korean Peninsula is our problem and we are directlyinvolved in the North Korean nuclear issue. I feel that we should take the lead. At present, we are spectators who hope for the US-China talks to go well,” Moon, 64, said at a restaurant in Seoul.
|Moon Jae-in. Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald|
Describing the North’s Kim Jong-un as an “irrational” leader and the US president as a “savvy businessman,” the liberal politician said he would directly negotiate with Kim to ease tension and strike a better deal with President Trump than past Korean presidents.
“We must recognize (Kim Jong-un) as North Korea’s leader, and if we are to resolve the nuclear issue we must negotiate (with Kim),” he said.
“I don’t consider President Trump (as being) in the same category with Kim Jong-un. I think he is someone who derives a rational decision from his calculations. So I think communicating with President Trump would be easier. This is because Korea and the US have shared interests.”
The Democratic Party of Korea’s flag-bearer -- who throughout the interview was poised and attentive despite looking tired -- sounded stern when he expressed concern about the Trump administration’s unilateral approach toward Pyongyang.
Tensions have mounted over the Korean Peninsula, as the US government has hinted at military options against North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs.
In an apparent show of force, the US military, which on Friday fired missiles at a Syrian air base in retaliation against a chemical attack on civilians, is sending the Carl Vinson Strike Group to Korean waters.
“No military action on North Korea should take place without the consent of South Korea,” Moon stressed, “particularly when Seoul is without its commander in chief.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye was removed from power on March 10 and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn is the acting president and chief military commander until the presidential election on May 9.
The dispatch of the US strike group came shortly after President Trump met Chinese leader Xi Jinping in their first summit, with North Korea’s evolving military threat topping their agenda.
Despite high expectations, the meeting failed to produce a major breakthrough.
Referring to the summit as a “disappointment,” Moon said South Korea should take the lead in resolving military threats from Pyongyang, which has conducted ballistic missile tests and inched closer to another nuclear test.
|Moon Jae-in (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)|
But the candidate declined to specify what kind of policy he would pursue if he takes office -- including whether to reopen Kaesong industrial park, following its shutdown in 2016 -- other than stressing strong coordination with Washington.
Previously he said he would not just reopen the inter-Korean factory complex, first established and promoted under liberal Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, but would seek to expand it.
The complex was closed in response to Pyongyang’s satellite launch and nuclear test in January 2016.
“First, close cooperation with the US must be established so that if (South Korea’s) North Korean policies need to be changed, we can request the US to alter theirs. The Trump administration considers the Obama administration and earlier Republican administrations to have failed in this regard, so Trump himself has hinted at changes in the US’ North Korean policies.”
With the upcoming presidential competition shaping up to be a two-way race between Moon and the People’s Party candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, Moon said Ahn is not a leader who can carry out social reform in the aftermath of the corruption scandal surrounding former President Park.
“The most important thing is the demand of the times, and I have always been with the candlelight protests. In contrast, Ahn emphasizes that he did not participate. (Ahn and I) have fundamentally different perceptions of the times.”
By Yeo Jun-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Jo He-rim (email@example.com)