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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Jan. 8)

All News 07:06 January 08, 2020

Moon's proposal to N. Korea
Kim Jong-un should seize opportunity

Some of the key themes of President Moon Jae-in's New Year address Tuesday were peace, economic recovery, industrial innovation and social fairness.

What was most intriguing was his proposal that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un should visit South Korea soon as the two leaders had previously agreed upon. Moon again showed his eagerness to push for the resumption of the stalled symbolic projects between the two Koreas ― the Gaeseong Industrial Complex and South Korean tours to Mount Geumgang ― as well as reconnecting severed inter-Korean roads and railways.

"I hope the two Koreas will make efforts together so that the conditions for Chairman Kim's reciprocal visit can be created early," Moon said, referring to Kim's agreement to visit the South during Moon's trip to Pyongyang in September 2018.

It is meaningful that Moon has shared his vision for peace on the Korean Peninsula again, especially when tensions are rising between North Korea and the United States over their stalled denuclearization talks. We surely need to do something to break the deadlock, revive dialogue and then move the peace process forward.

Moon's latest message to the North shows his willingness to sit in the "driver's seat" again to pave the way for positive changes just as he made the most of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in early 2018 to usher in a new era for the two Koreas, and help Pyongyang and Washington begin negotiations.

Given that Moon has been consistent about reviving inter-Korean economic exchanges as a means to consolidate peace depending on the progress of the dialogue between the North and the U.S., the current stalemate in their talks ironically gives more flexibility to Moon.

More than anyone else, Moon has been waiting for a deal between Pyongyang and Washington with patience, and the right time to put his ideas about promoting inter-Korean peace into action. And it was only considered possible if a deal was done, and the U.S. eased or removed sanctions on the North accordingly. But with talks between the North and the U.S. on the brink of collapse, he may choose to move more independently from Washington to revitalize exchanges with Pyongyang.

It is most important that North Korea should behave well. If it goes ahead with an intercontinental missile test, as widely speculated, it will be the beginning of a whole different story.

Kim Jong-un should realize that he holds the key to a consolidated peace and prosperous future for his country. He may believe a grand bargain with the U.S. will resolve all pending problems, including those with South Korea. However, the first thing he must do is to try to improve ties with the South. Without doing so, he will obtain nothing.

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