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(2nd LD) Moon voices need for 'bolder' denuclearization steps to end sanctions

Diplomacy 12:44 January 10, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks, additional information in last 11 paras; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun and Kim Soo-yeon

SEOUL, Jan. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Thursday stressed the need for North Korea to take more concrete and faster denuclearization steps while also highlighting the importance of corresponding measures by the international community to further accelerate the denuclearization process.

"I believe North Korea needs to take practical denuclearization steps more boldly if it wishes to resolve the issue of international sanctions because the issue of international sanctions depends on the speed of North Korea's denuclearization process," the president told a press conference held at his office Cheong Wa Dae.

"I believe corresponding measures too must be considered to further promote North Korea's denuclearization process," Moon said.

President Moon Jae-in takes questions in a press conference held at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

Moon's remarks follow months of apparent debates between the United States and North Korea over who should do what first.

Pyongyang is said to be demanding corresponding measures for the denuclearization steps it has taken so far, while Washington says the North needs to do more.

Moon said such a gap may stem from years of distrust and hostility.

"I think both sides are aware. North Korea knows it needs to take more concrete denuclearization steps in the end to remove international sanctions, and the U.S. too sees the need for corresponding measures to encourage the North's denuclearization," the president said.

"However, they are asking the other side to act first because they cannot trust each other. I believe that is why the second U.S.-North Korea summit has been delayed until now," he added.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met in Singapore in June.

Moon noted the second U.S.-North Korea summit may be imminent, saying Kim's trip to China this week could be an indication of it.

"I believe Chairman Kim's China visit is a sign that the second North Korea-U.S. summit is not far away. China has continued to play a positive role in the process of inter-Korean dialogue, as well as U.S.-North Korea talks," he said.

Moon dismissed concerns that North Korea and the U.S. might be quarreling over what "complete denuclearization" should entail, saying the North Korean leader fully understands and agrees with the definition of complete denuclearization used by Washington and the rest of the international community.

"Kim Jong-un has clearly stated to the leaders of each country that he has met, including myself, President Trump, President Xi Jinping, President (Vladimir) Putin, that there is no difference between the complete denuclearization he is talking about and the complete denuclearization the international community demands," the president told the nationally televised press conference.

He also expressed hope for Kim's visit to South Korea in the near future, possibly following his second summit with the U.S. president.

"I believe (the Seoul visit) will be realized since Chairman Kim personally promised and announced it. But because it is linked to the second North Korea-U.S. summit, I believe Chairman Kim's reciprocal visit may be pushed for more smoothly after the second North Korea-U.S. summit takes place first," he said.

Kim promised to visit Seoul to reciprocate Moon's trip to Pyongyang in September for their third bilateral summit.

President Moon Jae-in takes questions in a press conference held at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 10, 2019. (Yonhap)

Moon said his country will resume its economic cooperation with North Korea soon as international sanctions prohibiting it are removed.

"As many of you have said, the South Korean economy is facing structural difficulties and is no longer able to realize high growth rates like in the past. I believe inter-Korean economic cooperation will provide a new, epochal growth engine that revitalizes our economy," he said.

When asked about prolonged disputes between Seoul and Tokyo over their shared past, the president said the issues facing the countries had not been caused by South Korea.

"To start with the fundamentals, there was an unfortunate history between South Korea and Japan," the president said, apparently referring to Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of Korea.

"These problems continue even to date. These are not problems that were created by the South Korean government," he added.

The Seoul-Tokyo relationship is again facing a possible hurdle after a Seoul court ruled in favor of South Koreans forced to work for a Japanese company during World War II with little or no pay, ordering a seizure of the Japanese firm's assets.

Japan called in Seoul's top diplomat to Tokyo on Wednesday to file its complaint.

Moon expressed regrets over what he called an attempt by the Japanese government to politicize historical issues between the two countries.

"The South Korean government has repeatedly said we should address those issues separately while making sure the countries' relations are not damaged," the president said.

"I believe it is not a wise move for Japanese leaders to politicize those issues to turn them into controversies," he added.

The press conference, attended by about 180 journalists from local and foreign news outlets, was Moon's third since his inauguration in May 2017 to be broadcast live. It began with opening remarks by the president's that largely focused on economic issues.

bdk@yna.co.kr

sooyeon@yna.co.kr
(END)

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