South Korea's presidential front-runner Moon Jae-in told the Washington Post in a recent interview that he agrees with US President Donald Trump's "pragmatic approach" to resolving the North Korean nuclear issue.
In the interview published Tuesday, Moon of the liberal Democratic Party expressed support for Trump's parallel use of tough talk and peace gestures toward the recalcitrant state.
|Moon Jae-in, presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, gives the thumbs-up to a crowd on the campaign trail in Jinju, 434 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on May 3, 2017. (Yonhap)|
"I believe President Trump is more reasonable than he is generally perceived," he said. "President Trump uses strong rhetoric toward North Korea, but, during the election campaign, he also said he could talk over a burger with (North Korean leader) Kim Jong-un. I am for that kind of pragmatic approach to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue."
The liberal candidate has maintained a clear lead over his rivals in the run-up to the presidential election six days away. In the latest polls published Wednesday, Moon beat his closest competitor Ahn Cheol-soo of the center-left People's Party with about 40 percent of support against some 20 percent.
In the interview, Moon also said he shares Trump's belief that the Obama administration failed in their policy of "strategic patience" toward Pyongyang. Instead, he proposed Trump's policy of applying sanctions and pressure on North Korea to bring it back to the negotiating table.
"I do not know when I will be able to have talks with the North on scrapping its nuclear program, but if I become the president I believe I need to meet with President Trump first to discuss the issue in depth and reach an agreement with him on the measures to abolish North Korea's nuclear program," Moon was quoted as telling the paper.
On whether he plans to visit Pyongyang before Washington as president, the former human rights lawyer said the news report was "absolutely not true."
"I intended to say that, if it would help resolve the nuclear issue, I could go to North Korea after sufficient prior discussions with the US and Japan," he said.
Moon, who served as chief of staff to former President Roh Moo-hyun, stood by his position that the incoming administration should have the final say on whether to deploy the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense anti-missile system here.
The deployment has sparked fierce protests from neighboring countries such as China and Russia as well as from residents living near the site of the battery in the southeastern county of Seongju.
"It is not desirable for the (caretaker) South Korean government to deploy THAAD hastily at this politically sensitive time, with the presidential election approaching, and without going through the democratic process, an environmental assessment or a public hearing," he was quoted as saying. "Would it happen this way in the United States? Could the administration make a unilateral decision without following democratic procedures, without ratification or agreement by Congress?"
Moon argued the bilateral alliance would grow stronger if South Koreans were given more time to "process this matter democratically." (Yonhap)