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Moon says willing to meet North Korean leader; wants no regime change

BERLIN -- President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that he is willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong-un “anytime and anywhere” despite heightened tension over Pyongyang’s test of an intercontinental ballistic missile, stressing Seoul does not seek regime change or forced unification.

“I make this clear here and now. We do not want North Korea’s collapse, nor will we seek any form of unification by absorption,” he said in a speech hosted by the Korber Foundation at Berlin’s Old City Hall.

“When the right conditions are created and there is a chance to turn around the current tension and situation of confrontation on the Korean Peninsula, I am ready to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at any time and any place.” 

President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at a lecture hosted by the Korber Foundation in Berlin on Thursday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at a lecture hosted by the Korber Foundation in Berlin on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Moon, on a six-day trip to Germany to attend the annual Group of 20 summit, branded Tuesday’s provocation a “disappointing and wrong” decision, calling for a complete and irreversible denuclearization of the peninsula.

But the absence of a cross-border communication channel was making the situation “extremely dangerous,” he said, adding that easing tension was the most urgent task.

“We have to start with a contact for situation management and make progress in meaningful dialogue,” Moon said. “(With Kim,) we can put on the table all issues of mutual interest including the nuclear program and a peace treaty, and discuss peninsula peace and inter-Korean cooperation.”

The president also proposed holding a new round of reunions of separated families on Oct. 4, which coincides with the Chuseok holiday and the 10th anniversary of a landmark peace declaration between late President Roh Moo-hyun and then leader Kim Jong-il. The statement, coupled with the June 15, 2000 declaration between former liberal leader Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, fostered an inter-Korean reconciliation and economic and humanitarian exchanges.

If the North responds, the sides could also allow for the first time the families to visit their ancestral graves to pay their respects, Moon said. He cited the example of the former East and West Germanies which let their citizens trade letters, phone calls and make trips to see their family members on the other side of the border.

“There is no reason we can’t do that. Before more members of the separated families pass away, we have to dry their tears,” Moon said.

“If the North has difficulty in preparations, our side can allow the North Koreans to travel to their hometowns and the family graves.”

Moon also said that Germany’s experience of achieving peaceful unification could be a model example for the peninsula and Northeast Asia.

“Germany has overcome the Cold War and achieved unification, but is now faced with new challenges such as regionalism, terrorism and refugee issues,” he said.

“I believe that based upon the spirit of democracy and peace, Germany will eventually realize unity. The Republic of Korea, too, will follow suit and establish a peaceful Korean Peninsula.”

A nonprofit organization established in 1959 by German businessman Kurt Korber, the foundation provides a platform to discuss political topics, focusing on European foreign policies. Headquartered in Hamburg, the foundation has an international relations department in Berlin.

The organization is also host to the Bergedorf Round Table, a confidential gathering of policymakers, diplomats and experts who seek to promote international dialogue in politics, science, business and society.

By Bae Hyun-jung
Korea Herald correspondent
(tellme@heraldcorp.com)

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