WASHINGTON, June 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Friday urged stepped-up efforts by his country and the United States to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons, saying their success will make the countries and their alliance greater.
"The Korea-U.S. alliance is already a great alliance. But the alliance can be much greater," Moon said in a speech at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
The new South Korean leader said the allies face a very difficult challenge.
"It is a historically difficult challenge that we have been unable to resolve over the past 20 years. It is the problem created by North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," he said.
"I believe leaping forward into the future and not retreating anymore in the face of the world's most urgent and most dangerous threat is the way for the Korea-U.S. alliance to move from being a good alliance towards a great alliance," the president added.
Moon noted the allies had come close to having North Korea give up its nuclear ambition in the past but failed as the communist state refused to implement its agreement.
"In addition, North Korea's Kim Jong-un regime now has a misguided belief that nuclear weapons and missiles will protect its system and regime," the South Korean president said.
Still, the South Korean leader insisted the countries now had a better chance than ever to finally get North Korea to denuclearize, saying the new U.S. administration under President Donald Trump is more determined than ever to rid North Korea of its nuclear weapons.
"President Trump placing the top priority on resolving the North Korean nuclear and missile issues in U.S. foreign policy is something no other U.S. government has done. This fact raises the possibility of resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. I plan to seize such a moment with all my efforts," he said.
Moon stressed a need to counter any fresh provocation from the communist North with a "firm" and "determined" response.
However, he also noted a need to resume dialogue with North Korea, saying Kim Jong-un is the only person who can make a decision to denuclearize.
Moon's speech at the CSIS followed his two-day meeting with Trump, in which the two leaders agreed to seek a phased denuclearization of the North, marking an apparent concession from the U.S. president who advocated a resumption of dialogue with North Korea after the North's denuclearization.
Moon earlier said a phased denuclearization process would begin when and if Pyongyang freezes its nuclear activities, which will be followed by resumption of dialogue, partly to discuss its reward for its nuclear dismantlement.
"I clearly state this here. I and President Trump do not pursue a hostile policy against North Korea. We have no intention of attacking North Korea nor do we wish for a change in the North Korean regime or its collapse," he said.
"But we make a clear demand to North Korea. Denuclearization is the only way to ensure its safety and economic development. North Korea too must decide its own fate. It cannot blame others for its fate," he added.
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