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Moon reaffirms commitment to engagement with North Korea

President Moon Jae-in chairs a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Jan. 21, 2022. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in chairs a National Security Council meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Jan. 21, 2022. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his commitment to reviving the stalled nuclear talks with North Korea at a meeting Thursday, where he was briefed by his security aides on major initiatives this year to improve inter-Korean relations and South Korea’s ties with the outside world.

At the briefing, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would work closely with the Biden administration to help restart nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang. Senior-level talks with the US to discuss North Korea will be arranged once President Biden’s security team is set up, it added.

The ministry discussed expanding exchanges with China. A senior ministry official said the government will again push for a state visit by President Xi Jinping once the coronavirus situation stabilizes. The visit was pushed back last year due to the pandemic.

The ministry said it would work to improve ties with Japan as well, amid a rekindled diplomatic feud over the unresolved legacies of the two countries’ past such as the “comfort women” and forced labor issues.

Meanwhile, the Unification Ministry in charge of inter-Korean affairs said it would restore communications with Pyongyang. The North demolished the inter-Korean liaison office at the border and cut hotlines in June last year to protest the cross-border launch of anti-North propaganda leaflets.

The ministry also said it will ask the National Assembly to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration signed by Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at their first summit in April 2018. The parliamentary approval is seen as a signal to Pyongyang that Seoul is serious about honoring the peace deal.

The Ministry of National Defense stressed upholding the 2018 inter-Korean military pact, which calls for the two neighbors to stop aggression work for peace on the peninsula. It added it will try holding regularly military talks with the North to discuss implementing the pact. They have not met since signing the pact.

The ministry said it would work to ensure a smooth takeover of the wartime operational command Seoul intends to reclaim from Washington by May next year. But the two allies missed out on joint drills last year that were supposed to test Korea’s readiness, rending the timeframe impossible to meet.

President Moon also opened his first National Security Council meeting this year shortly before the briefing, where he asked his aides to take the initiative in expanding South Korea’s foreign relations on the back of a strong South Korea-US alliance.

By Choi Si-young (