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Full text of President Moon Jae-in's joint written interview with Yonhap, six global news agencies

All Headlines 18:08 June 26, 2019

SEOUL, June 26 (Yonhap) -- The following is the first part of an unofficial translation of President Moon Jae-in's joint written interview with Yonhap News Agency and six other global news agencies: AFP, AP, Kyodo, Reuters, TASS, Xinhua (in alphabetical order of company names). This transcript was released by his office Cheong Wa Dae on Wednesday.

Q1. Stalemate in North Korea-U.S. Dialogue

Despite South Korea's active, aggressive role as a mediator, nuclear diplomacy between North Korea and the U.S. has been deadlocked since the Hanoi summit. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has since demanded that the U.S. come up with a new proposal to salvage the diplomacy by the end of this December.

As a man who was behind the two summits between the U.S. and North Korea, do you have any specific plans to put their nuclear diplomacy back on track? What efforts or measures will the South Korean government take in the future to push forward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula?

Q1-1. Do you intend to meet North Korean leader Kim again or send a special envoy to North Korea? If so, when do you think that a fourth summit with Kim or sending an envoy to North Korea would be appropriate? (AP, Xinhua and AFP)

A1: First and foremost, I want to highlight the fact that, even though there has been no official dialogue between North Korea and the United States since the Hanoi summit, their leaders' willingness to engage in dialogue has never faded.

Proof of this can be seen in the exchange of personal letters between the two leaders. President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un continue to express unwavering trust in each other.

Moreover, both sides have been engaged in dialogue in regard to a third summit. It's noteworthy that the behind-the-scenes talks have been preceded by the mutual understanding of each other's position gained through the Hanoi summit. Also underway is dialogue between the South and the North through diverse channels to sustain inter-Korean talks. Dialogue and efforts for dialogue are crucial factors in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. That's because complete denuclearization and a permanent peace regime on the Peninsula are tasks that cannot be achieved overnight.

There's no reason to regard the current situation as a stalemate in the peace process on the Peninsula just because the pace has remained slow. Chairman Kim sent a personal letter to President Trump and also expressed condolences to the South on the passing of former First Lady Lee Hee-ho through First Vice Department Director of the Workers' Party Central Committee, his sister, Kim Yo-jong. All of this sends a meaningful message. Last week, Chairman Kim reaffirmed his resolve for dialogue at a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping, which also backs up this analysis.

There has already been considerable headway made in the peace process on the Korean Peninsula, and it is still making steady progress. The resumption of negotiations between North Korea and the United States will take it to the next level. I believe everything has now fallen into place for that to happen.

A1-1: It depends on Chairman Kim Jong-un. I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim at any time. As I explained before on several occasions, my determination remains the same that I am prepared to meet with Chairman Kim in person at any given moment without being restrained by time, place or formalities.

Q2. Assessment of Hanoi Summit

You have offered to play a mediator role between the United States and North Korea, and ahead of the Hanoi summit, you said that South Korea was willing to ease the burden of the United States by providing economic concessions to North Korea, raising expectations for a deal. Are you feeling responsible for the breakdown of the summit? What do you think of the view that South Korea failed to convey U.S. positions to the North properly, and this is reflected in North Korean state media's ongoing criticism toward the South? (Reuters)

A2: The peace process on the Korean Peninsula is literally a process. An unfolding phenomenon should be viewed as part of a process, not as one specific cross-section; this should become the premise.

The first North Korea-United States summit held last year was a historic event in itself and also a historic milestone in terms of related agreements. North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear program completely, and the United States, in return, agreed to put an end to hostile relations with the North, guarantee its security and normalize North Korea-U.S. relations. In accordance with these agreements, the North should scrap its nuclear program, and the United States should provide conducive conditions by taking reciprocal measures. As these steps should be taken reciprocally between them, I proposed to President Trump that the ROK's role, including inter-Korean economic cooperation, could be fully utilized as corresponding measures to induce the North to take denuclearization steps.

It is not appropriate to define this proposal as economic concessions to North Korea. I'd like to discuss inter-Korean economic cooperation from two perspectives. First, in terms of inter-Korean relations, my Administration seeks coexistence and mutual prosperity between the South and the North. It is not something that can be accomplished by means of unilateral concessions from one side. The pursuit of both Koreas' economic prosperity is a crucial part in the process of advancing inter-Korean relations. With this understanding as a foundation, I have shared a future vision of various economic aspects with the North Korean side, including the New Economic Map Initiative for the Korean Peninsula. Of course, I understand well the fact that full-fledged economic cooperation will be possible only when peace is settled on the Korean Peninsula together with complete denuclearization.

An improvement in inter-Korean relations and economic cooperation will also be conducive to negotiations for denuclearization. The advancement of inter-Korean ties is a driving force that can speed up denuclearization. History has shown that North Korean nuclear threats diminish when inter-Korean relations are good. Economic exchanges are what it takes to help connect people with people and lives with lives. The more close-knit and stronger economic cooperation becomes, the harder it becomes to regress back to the past confrontational order. Revitalizing inter-Korean economic cooperation will contribute to creating a new cooperative order that can boost peace and prosperity in East Asia beyond the Korean Peninsula.

When assessing the Hanoi summit, I don't see it as a failure even though an agreement could not be reached. The success of denuclearization and the peace process on the Korean Peninsula cannot be determined by a summit or two. The Hanoi summit served as a chance for both North Korea and the United States to put everything they want on the negotiating table for candid discussions and come to better understand one another. What was discussed at the Hanoi summit will become the basis for the next phase of negotiations. Both sides clearly understand the necessity for dialogue.

Q3. Kim Jong-un's Commitment to Denuclearization

Following the U.S.-North Korea summit in Hanoi in February, skepticism has been growing about the North's commitment to denuclearize. Do you think North Korea is willing to give up its nuclear weapons? Has Kim Jong-un ever made explicitly clear to you that he is willing to give up North Korea's existing nuclear weapons without a change in either the South's security alliance with the U.S. or the U.S. military presence in South Korea, Japan, or elsewhere in Asia or the Pacific? (Kyodo and AFP)

A3: Chairman Kim Jong-un's unequivocal resolve is to move from the past to the future by opting for economic development instead of a nuclear arsenal. During the three inter-Korean summits with me, Chairman Kim expressed his intent to finalize a denuclearization process as soon as possible and to concentrate on economic development. Besides, he has never linked denuclearization with the ROK-U.S. alliance or a pullout of the United States Forces Korea. I believe in Chairman Kim's determination for denuclearization.

Not only myself but other leaders who have met him in person, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, all speak of their trust in Chairman Kim's promise. Trust can be said to constitute a precondition for dialogue.

Together with the confirmation of North Korea's determination to achieve denuclearization, it's important to create an environment where the North can focus on taking relevant steps. Chairman Kim should be helped along the path toward that goal in a way that sustains his commitment to nuclear dismantlement.

In my several talks with Chairman Kim Jong-un, I could sense that he is quite a flexible yet resolute person. For instance, the results of the first inter-Korean summit were announced through a joint press conference broadcast live around the world, which was unprecedented. The original plan was to announce them through a written document such as a joint statement, but I suggested a press conference, considering the historic significance of the summit and its agreements, and Chairman Kim instantly accepted the proposal.

I look forward to Chairman Kim demonstrating this kind of flexible determination during denuclearization negotiations as well, and I believe this can be possible. I think creating a security environment where Chairman Kim can decisively act on nuclear dismantlement without worries is the fastest way to achieve denuclearization diplomatically.

Q4~5. Strategy for Denuclearization Negotiations

Q4. Since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit, South Korea has expressed skepticism about the chances of a big deal that would resolve everything all at once and instead called for smaller "good-enough deals" or "early harvest deals" that could get the process rolling again. But Seoul hasn't provided any specific examples of about how such deals would look. What are the potential deals South Korea has in mind? (AP)

A4: North Korea and the United States have already reached an agreement on the ultimate goal of denuclearization talks. In summary, North Korea's complete denuclearization was to be exchanged for a security guarantee for the North's regime and an end to their hostile relations. This agreement is still valid.

The task at the current stage is to decide how to implement the promises made to each other: the procedures and sequencing. This has something to do with the level of trust they have in each other. As their hostile relations have persisted for more than 70 years, it will be difficult to cross a sea of mistrust all at once. In addition, this process is inevitable because it is impossible to implement what has been agreed upon between the two sides in one stroke at any given moment.

For this reason, my administration has put emphasis on the structure of a virtuous cycle between negotiations and trust. It is all about building trust through dialogue and negotiations and, again, enabling that trust to produce positive results of dialogue and negotiations. This is no doubt the quickest and most solid path to achieve denuclearization.

Q5. You said in your recent speech at the parliament in Sweden that North Korea must substantially show to the international community its commitment to completely dismantling its nuclear weapons and to establishing a peace regime. Can you elaborate what such "action" is?

Q5-1. You also said during a trip to Europe in October last year "if North Korea's denuclearization action is judged to enter an irreversible phase, its denuclearization should be further facilitated by easing U.N. sanctions." What's your definition of the irreversible stage? What would be the appropriate level of sanctions if the North actually reaches that irreversible stage? (AP and Yonhap)

A5: Last year North Korea dismantled its nuclear test site in Punggye-ri as media from around the world watched. For its part, North Korea has taken the initial step toward complete denuclearization. In addition, the North promised to permanently dismantle its missile engine testing site and launch pad in Dongchang-ri in the presence of experts from the relevant countries. It also revealed its intention to dismantle its nuclear facilities in Yeongbyon.

All of this should be noted, but I still would like to point out that North Korea must come to the dialogue table at the earliest date possible in order to convince the international community of its willingness for complete nuclear dismantlement. By responding to the U.S. proposal for working-level negotiations, it can also show its determination to denuclearize.

If Pyongyang leaves behind the passive stance it has adopted following the summit in Hanoi and strives to reach agreements in future negotiations while carrying out past promises, this will help it win the trust of the international community.

A 5-1: At the Hanoi summit, the complete dismantlement of the Yeongbyon nuclear complex was discussed. The Yeongbyon complex is the mainstay of North Korea's nuclear facilities. If all of the nuclear facilities in the complex, including the plutonium reprocessing facilities and the uranium enrichment facilities, are completely demolished and verified, it would be possible to say that the denuclearization of North Korea has entered an irreversible stage. Although an agreement was not reached last time in Hanoi, I expect that there will be substantive progress if the two sides continue negotiations based on what was discussed in Singapore and Hanoi.

If substantive progress is made in North Korea-U.S. talks and in the denuclearization process, inter-Korean economic cooperation – such as the resumption of operations at the Kaeseong Industrial Complex – will gain momentum. Such progress could also help the international community seek a partial or gradual easing of the U.N. Security Council sanctions.

If the denuclearization negotiations resume in earnest going forward, the key to the negotiations will be to determine what kind of measures that the North will have to complete to say that substantive denuclearization has been achieved – in other words, to regard the North as having entered an irreversible stage. It will be linked to the definition of denuclearization being clarified, upon which an agreement was not reached at the Hanoi summit.

The key is trust. That's why I underscored trust for the sake of peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula in my speech before the Swedish parliament. As the parties have already sought to resolve relevant issues through dialogue, they must engage in dialogue while trusting each other. In particular, North Korea must trust the promise of the international community to ensure its security and a bright future, provided that it abandons its nuclear program. Trust, of course, must be reciprocal.

This is why North Korea has to actively engage in dialogue with the international community, not only through the denuclearization talks with the United States, but also through other bilateral and multilateral discussions. Dialogue will help enhance confidence, and confidence will in turn keep the dialogue going.

It's also crucial to continue exchange and cooperation projects that were agreed upon by the two Koreas. The implementation of agreements demonstrates the power of trust to create peace.

I will remain committed to working together to help restore trust between North Korea and the international community.

Q 6. Peace Regime on the Korean Peninsula

Next year (2020) marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, and many wish for a complete end to the Cold War structure on the Korean Peninsula by June 25 (the day of the war outbreak) of the anniversary year. Please give us an overview of your road map to peace on the Korean Peninsula that includes North Korea-U.S. denuclearization talks, the declaration of an end to the Korean War, the complete denuclearization and the signing of a peace treaty. What goals do you want to achieve during your term in office for the settlement of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula? You mentioned "peace for the people" and "positive peace that changes everyday life" in your Oslo Forum speech in Norway. What are your specific thoughts on this? (Yonhap)

A 6: The Korean Peninsula peace process is about dismantling the last vestige of the Cold War rivalry on Earth and – at the same time – is a long journey the leaders of both Koreas and the United States are taking together. The overriding goal is to achieve complete denuclearization through negotiations and establish a permanent peace regime through declaring an end to the War and concluding a peace agreement. Notably, all of this together constitutes a new path that no one has ever taken before. For this reason, we're doing all we can to make earnest, sincere efforts at every moment and every stage.

I am convinced that this is the right way. The goal we have to reach is also unequivocal. The negotiations by the concerned parties will result in a roadmap that lists the detailed implementation measures needed to achieve the goal as well as a time table.

The Korean Peninsula has been under a state of armistice for over 65 years. Although an atmosphere of reconciliation and cooperation was created thanks to painstaking efforts last year, there's still a possibility that the everyday lives of our people could be disrupted. Peace at the moment is provisional. With this interim peace now, however, we can clearly see the preciousness of peace once again.

For me, the president of the only divided nation on Earth that saw a full-blown Cold War-induced conflict, peace is a historic obligation and a responsibility entrusted to me by the Constitution as well. It will not be possible to accomplish everything during my term in office, but the rivers of peace and denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula are already flowing. Thus, I hope that the flow will make headway to the extent that it cannot be reversed at least before the end of my term.

A 6-1: Peace on the Korean Peninsula means the dissolution of the world's last remaining Cold War structure and a release from the ever-present threat of war. To this end, we are now making all-out efforts to achieve complete denuclearization and establish a permanent peace regime.

Moreover, the concept of peace has to be further broadened. The Korean Peninsula needs to take the path toward common prosperity as one unified community. It has to move toward not only resolving political and military issues but also toward enriching the lives of all of its members in all aspects of the economy, society and culture. That is "peace for the people."

Efforts to jointly pioneer the future of economic growth and prosperity, to share and enjoy higher cultural values and to cope with disasters and diseases together will help the everyday lives of all the people in both Koreas. If such endeavors are built up, the persistent feelings of antipathy instilled in the hearts of the people due to the long-lasting confrontational order will be eliminated, allowing them to realize the preciousness of peace in their everyday lives.
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