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(3rd LD) Moon says N. Korea irrational, responsible for Warmbier's death

All News 21:35 June 20, 2017

(ATTN: UPDATES with more quotes in last 6 paras)

SEOUL/WASHINGTON, June 20 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in condemned North Korea Tuesday for the death of an American student who died after his release from detention in the communist North, calling Pyongyang an "irrational regime."

"We can speculate that there were many unjust and cruel treatments to Mr. (Otto) Warmbier. And I strongly condemn such cruel actions by North Korea," Moon said in an interview with CBS, according to a script of the interview posted by the American news outlet.

"We cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr. Warmbier. But I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier's death," he added.

Warmbier, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, returned home in a coma last week after 17 months of detention in the North.

He died Monday (U.S. time), six days after his release.

Moon expressed his condolences to the bereaved family of Warmbier and said his death should have made all realize how important it was to rid the communist North of its nuclear weapons.

"I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime. Working with such a country, we must achieve the goal of the complete dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program," he said.

The new South Korean leader still noted a need to resume dialogue with the North, insisting the world has been "unable to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through only sanctions and pressure."

Moon said resuming dialogue with the North required certain preconditions without elaborating on what those conditions were.

"I believe that first we must vie for a freeze of North Korea's nuclear and missile programs. And then, as a second phase, try to achieve the complete dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program. And I believe there are voices supporting such a step-by-step approach even within the United States," he said, according to the U.S. channel.

Moon's interview came ahead of his scheduled visit to the United States next week for summit meetings with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump.

The new South Korean president said his position on how to deal with provocative North Korea was not at odds with that of the U.S. or its president.

"It seems to me that President Trump has criticized the failed former policies of his predecessor administrations. And on that point, I have the same view as President Trump," he said.

Moon and Trump are set for their first talks in Washington next Thursday and Friday. Moon came into office on May 10.

Moon said he wants to hold talks with the North's leader if conditions are right.

"I certainly hope that the conditions become right for such dialogue before the end of the year. And just because we believe that dialogue is necessary does not mean we have to be impatient for dialogue," Moon said when asked if he's willing to visit Pyongyang.

"What I hope to achieve by the end of this year is to draw North Korea to the table for negotiations through the implementation of various sanctions and pressure," he said.

Moon also said he believes the North's leader wants a security guarantee for the regime and wants dialogue deep inside, even though he brandishes nuclear and missile programs.

"In the end, the only way to find out is to have a dialogue with North Korea," he said.

Moon said that a preemptive strike on the North is something that should be discussed later.

"When it comes to a preemptive strike, I believe this is something we may, we can discuss at a later stage when the threat has become even more urgent," he said.

bdk@yna.co.kr
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