President Moon Jae-in renewed his resolve to pursue sanctions and dialogue to tackle North Korea’s nuclear program during a meeting with former US President Barack Obama on Monday, saying now is the “last chance” for the regime to return to the negotiating table.
During the 40-minute talk, Moon shared the results of his recent summit with his incumbent US counterpart Donald Trump, asking for Obama’s advice on ways to advance the relationship. The former president stressed bipartisan US support for the alliance and wished Moon success in his presidency, according to Cheong Wa Dae.
“President Trump and I agreed to continue to apply sanctions and pressure to resolve the North’s nuclear and missile issues, while pursuing dialogue in parallel,” Moon was quoted as saying by his press secretary Yoon Young-chan.
“Obama said that as many South Koreans hope for his success, Moon would no doubt meet the people’s expectations, quoting former President Abraham Lincoln whom he said he respects the most that with the people’s support you can do anything.”
Obama arrived in Seoul on Sunday along with his wife Michelle and daughters, Sasha and Malia, marking his first visit since his term came to an end in January.
The meeting came at a delicate time, a day after Moon returned from Washington. At a joint news conference there, Trump openly derided Obama’s “strategic patience” policy on North Korea as “failed” and a bilateral free trade pact sealed during his term as “not exactly a great deal.”
Obama is enjoying his postretirement life nonetheless, basking in one of the highest ratings for any former US leader.
Earlier Monday, he took part in the Asian Leadership Conference hosted by the Chosun Ilbo and met with former President Lee Myung-bak, which he called a chance to “catch up with my old friend.”
At the forum, Obama sought to counter Trump’s criticism for his North Korea policy, pointing to his efforts to intensify sanctions, plug loopholes and boost cooperation with China -- the defiant regime’s economic lifeline -- and other countries such as in Southeast Asia.
While expressing skepticism a quick solution, he emphasized the need to tighten the enforcement of the sanctions to ensure no “leaks” that may facilitate arms trade and cash flows into the North.
“We should be under no illusions that there is some silver bullet and solve this problem right away,” Obama said.
“But I do think that a good dialogue has opened up between the US and China around this issue, and my hope is that the current administration is continuing that. I think it is also important for us to maintain the kinds of strong application of sanctions.”
The staunch Democrat also took a veiled swipe at Trump over his exit from the Paris climate accord, while defending globalization and the liberal global order in stark contrast to the hawkish Republican’s “America First” and “peace through strength” doctrine.
“In Paris, we came together around the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change -- an agreement that, even with the temporary absence of American leadership, will still give our children a fighting chance,” Obama said.
“Democracy is hard. Progress does not move in a straight line. Its gains are often fragile.
“But the future does not favor the strongman. I believe deeply that the liberal international order; order based not just on military power or national affiliations, but on principles -- the rule of law, human rights and individual freedoms -- is the only choice.”
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org