South Korea should push for a summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the first half of Moon's term, a senior ruling party lawmaker said Thursday.
Rep. Lee Hae-chan of the Democratic Party made the suggestion in a speech set to be delivered at a security conference, saying 2019 will be good for a summit because the year is meaningful as the 100th anniversary of the 1919 nationwide uprising against Japanese colonial rule and the establishment of a provisional government.
"If possible, it's important to push for a South-North summit in the first half (of Moon's five-year term)," Lee said during the conference organized to mark late former President Kim Dae-jung's winning of the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize following the first inter Korean summit ever earlier that year.
"If a summit takes places in the second half, it would be difficult to guarantee its effectiveness," he said.
Rep. Lee Hae-chan (Yonhap)
The two Koreas have held two summits so far, the first in 2000 between then-President Kim and then North Korean leader Kim Jong-il, and the other in 2007 between then-President Roh Moo-hyun and the North's leader. Inter-Korean relations have since worsened seriously under the two successive conservative administrations of Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye.
Despite the nuclear and missile tensions, Lee said that Seoul should make efforts next year to restore dialogue channels with the North and foster an atmosphere for talks so that a summit can take place the following year.
"Even in the middle of a situation dominated by nuclear and missile provocations and sanctions, we need to have a flexible strategy so as to induce dialogue and negotiations," Lee said. "We have to encourage North Korea's participation in efforts to make the PyeongChang Olympics a peace Olympics and suspend military exercises during the period to create an atmosphere for dialogue."
Seoul should consider sending a special envoy to the North to ask for its participation in the Winter Olympics, Lee said. He also said that the two Koreas should restore a hotline to prevent accidental military clashes. (Yonhap)