By Chang Dong-woo
SEOUL, Aug. 15 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday reaffirmed his commitment to leading diplomatic efforts to solve the latest security crisis facing the Korean Peninsula, amid exchanges of belligerent rhetoric between the United States and North Korea.
In a ceremony marking the 72nd anniversary of the country's liberation from Japanese colonial rule (1910-1945), Moon said that the government will prevent an armed conflict "at all cost", addressing the increasing public concerns of a possible war between the U.S. and North Korea.
Pyongyang says it is considering staging a missile exercise targeting the U.S.-controlled island of Guam. This plan is viewed as a clear and direct threat to the United States with senior policymakers in Washington making clear it can move to counter Pyongyang's threats militarily.
U.S. President Donald Trump went even further saying the option to use force is "locked and loaded" and ready for implementation.
Moon apparently sought to calm both sides, saying no military action should take place without Seoul's consent.
"Military action on the Korean Peninsula can only be decided by the Republic of Korea and no one may decide to take military action without the consent of the Republic of Korea," Moon said, sending an apparent message towards its main ally the United States and to a lesser extent North Korea.
In his weekly meeting with top aides Monday, Moon urged Pyongyang and Washington to "stop all provocations and threats. The national interest of the Republic of Korea is peace," Moon clarified.
While Moon's latest speech is in line with that of Seoul's stance, it is seen as a more refined and official proclamation of the government's position in handling the crisis, especially considering how Liberation Day speeches are considered one of the more important messages delivered by a South Korean president throughout the years.
The chief executive is also seen as having asked for the support of the U.S. in allowing Seoul to take the "driver's seat" on current outstanding issues by explaining that Seoul and Washington are on the same page when it comes to Korean affairs.
"We must peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue no matter how many ups and downs there are. In this regard, our position and that of the U.S. government is not different."
At the same time, Moon repeated his call for the North to come to the dialogue table. The two Koreas have had no contact since Moon came into office in May, despite overtures by the liberal leader to engage in talks to diffuse tensions.
"At the same time, we will keep our doors open for military dialogue to make sure tensions between the South and the North do not worsen," the president said, in an apparent effort to ease military tension between the two Koreas.
The ruling Democratic Party praised Moon's speech, assessing the president of "having clearly proposed the country's role that the people want."
"President Moon's solution towards the North Korean issue is a solution that the international community agrees upon. History proves that peace situations were fostered when our government actively led the situation," Rep. Baek Hye-ryun, Democratic Party spokeswoman, said.
The main opposition Liberty Korea Party accused Moon of "running about in confusion," likening the newly emerged security crisis as the second Cuba missile standoff.
"If the Moon Jae-in government keeps running about in confusion during the security crisis that's escalating to become the second Cuba crisis, South Korea will be relegated into an observer country that would have to merely watch a rerun of the armistice agreement sealed by world powers on July 27, 1953," said party spokesman Rep. Kang Hyo-sang, LPK spokesman.
Rep. Park Joo-sun, interim leader of minor opposition People's Party also called Moon's North Korean policy as being contradictory.
"He says that now is not the time to propose talks then (urges North Korea to come to the table)," said Park.
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