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(2nd LD) Moon adviser anticipates 'new possibilities' with Kim's letter to Trump

All Headlines 16:32 June 12, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS more info in paras 9-13)
By Song Sang-ho

SEOUL, June 12 (Yonhap) -- North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's letter sent to U.S. President Donald Trump this week could open up "new possibilities" in relations between the two countries, a special adviser to President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday.

Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser and Yonsei University professor, made the remarks after Trump said Tuesday that Kim sent him a "beautiful" and "very warm" letter, the first known correspondence since their no-deal summit in Hanoi in February.

"I don't know the content of the letter, but I think that new possibilities between the North and the United States could open up considering that there had not been any dialogue or contact (between them since the Hanoi summit)," Moon said during a forum on the South Korea-U.S. alliance.

"That (letter) is considerably heartening. ... There have been difficulties after the Hanoi setback, but I forecast that there may be (talks) between the South and the U.S., between the South and the North, and between the North and the U.S.," he added.

Moon Chung-in, a special presidential adviser and Yonsei University professor, speaks during a forum on the South Korea-U.S. alliance in Seoul on June 12, 2019. (Yonhap)

Trump has told reporters at the White House that he got the letter, which he called "very personal, very warm, very nice," on Monday. He did not disclose the content of the message but repeated that he thinks the North has "tremendous potential" under Kim's leadership.

The Hanoi summit broke down due to a failure to bridge gaps over the extent of Pyongyang's denuclearization and Washington's sanctions relief. Since the summit, nuclear negotiations between the two sides have been stalled.

The North has been hardening its rhetoric against the U.S., demanding that Washington show flexibility in its hard-line position.

It has also been seen as escalating tensions through weapons tests, including the launch last month of short-range missiles, stoking fears that peace efforts could be put in jeopardy.

But Trump has repeatedly indicated his desire to keep up dialogue with Pyongyang while dangling the prospect of economic prosperity for a nuclear-free North Korea.

In an apparent olive branch to the North on Tuesday, Trump said that he wouldn't have allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to use Kim Jong-nam, the North Korean leader's half-brother, as its operative. Kim was killed with VX nerve agent in Malaysia in 2017.

"I wouldn't let that happen under my auspices," he said, referring to a news report that Kim Jong-nam had served as a CIA informant.

Observers said Trump's remarks signaled his willingness to continue engagement with the North.

"Trump might have indicated that there won't be covert operations (using the leader's relatives)," Park Won-gon, professor of international politics at Handong Global University, said.

During the forum, the presidential adviser also called for the "strategic and flexible" application of sanctions, saying that in his "personal" view as a scholar, the U.S.' stance that it will not ease sanctions until the North's complete denuclearization is "unrealistic."

"The North regards the sanctions as a concrete sign of (the U.S.') hostile intent or action (against the regime)," Moon said. "I personally think that sanctions for the sake of sanctions would not be that effective."

Moon also mentioned the idea of employing a snap-back measure under which stronger sanctions would be reimposed should Pyongyang not cooperate over its denuclearization process despite sanctions relief.

The adviser pointed to two different approaches in Washington: one focusing on punishing the North and the other on "positive reinforcement" aimed at altering the North's behavior through encouragement or compliments for positive actions. He favored the latter, which he said appears to be Trump's approach.

"My personal observation is that rather than (only) demonizing or punishing the North, President Trump's approach is more persuasive," he said.

"Compliments make dolphins dance ... I think we need to heed that," he added.

sshluck@yna.co.kr
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