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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 16)

All Headlines 07:12 April 16, 2018

Moon-Hong meeting
President should heed opposing view on summits

President Moon Jae-in held a rare one-on-one meeting April 13 with main opposition leader Hong Joon-pyo at Cheong Wa Dae. This was the first time for President Moon to get together exclusively with the leader of the largest opposition party since taking office in May 2017.

Moon's meeting with the chairman of the Liberty Korea Party (LKP) last week took place at the President's invitation. It came amid rising confrontation between the LKP and the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) over a range of issues, including summit diplomacy with North Korea. Preparations are underway for a meeting between Moon and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27 and what will be the first-ever U.S.-North Korea summit in May or early June.

The meeting reflects the President's willingness to communicate with the main opposition leader on key issues in state affairs. Ahead of the important summits, the Moon-Hong meeting focused on urgent issues regarding national security.

The main opposition has been critical of Moon's peace-making efforts with North Korea. Hong voiced negative views about the upcoming inter-Korean summit during the meeting with the President. "The President asked us not to oppose the inter-Korean summit several times," Hong told reporters after the meeting. Hong said that his party was not against the meetings between the leaders of the two Koreas and the U.S. and North Korea. Rather, he shared his party's concerns that inter-Korean relations could worsen after the summits if North Korea does not commit sincerely to denuclearization. "It is naive to trust the North Korean regime when three-generations of its leaders have lied," Hong said.

The president should heed Hong's concerns. The first inter-Korean summit in 2000 between former President Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il, the father of the incumbent, produced some meaningful results, such as the June 15 Declaration. Another summit was held between former President Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Jong-il. But the two summits failed to extract visible changes from the North Korean regime, which has pursued its nuclear programs, conducting its sixth nuclear test last year, despite heavy economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation.

While the Korean public generally supports the latest developments in inter-Korean relations, some share the worries of the main opposition party that the summit will repeat the failures of ones in the past.

Such concerns are understandable when considering the differing views by relevant parties concerned on how to denuclearize North Korea. Pyongyang wants a phased approach toward denuclearization but the U.S. is pushing for "permanent and irreversible" dismantlement of its nuclear program. Mike Pompeo, the nominee for the U.S. secretary of state, reiterated that there will be no rewards before denuclearization during a Senate confirmation hearing last week.

The complexities in handling North Korea call for intricate strategies. The President should meet with the opposition more often and earnestly listen to their suggestions and ideas to achieve maximum results in state affairs.

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