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(2nd LD) Moon urges N. Korea not to backtrack on agreed-upon peace efforts

All Headlines 18:34 June 15, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks in 9th para, political parties' statements in last 8 paras)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, June 15 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in called on North Korea Monday not to stop a peace journey despite some troubles, making his first official remarks on North Korea's renewed saber-rattling.

"The direction the two Koreas should go together is clear," he said during a weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides. "We should not stop the current inter-Korean relations again, which have overcome a longtime severance and the crisis of a war with difficulty."

He was speaking in front of pool reporters and TV crews, as the two sides marked the 20th anniversary of the June 15 Joint Declaration adopted in a historic summit between the late leaders of the two Koreas -- Kim Dae-jung and Kim Jong-il.

President Moon Jae-in (2nd from L) speaks at a meeting with his senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Moon said he's commemorating the anniversary with a "heavy heart," apparently referring to frosty inter-Korean ties highlighted by Pyongyang's decision to cut all communication lines with Seoul and even a threat of military action.

Moon cited his own summit deals with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2018, one reached at the truce village of Panmunjom and the other in Pyongyang.

He said his government would make "incessant" efforts to implement summit agreements.

"(We) can't let the promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula, which I and Chairman Kim Jong-un made in front of 80 million Koreans, revert," Moon stressed.

The April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and the Sept. 19 Pyongyang Joint Declaration represent a "solemn promise" for both South and North Korea to implement faithfully, he added.

The promise constitutes a "firm principle that shouldn't be swayed by any change in security conditions," Moon said. "(The North) should not attempt to put (inter-Korean relations) back to the era of confrontation by cutting communication and creating tensions."

Noting that denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang are in a drawn-out stalemate, Moon proposed that the two sides make it their initiative to produce a "breakthrough" in the peace process.

"We have come to a time when we cannot wait any more for the conditions to improve," he said, proposing that the two sides push for joint projects that they can decide themselves as the "master of the Korean Peninsula's fate."

President Moon Jae-in speaks at a meeting with his senior secretaries at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on June 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

He also raised the need for the South's National Assembly to formally approve major inter-Korean deals.

If those agreements had been ratified by the National Assembly and had "continuity" despite a power shift, inter-Korean relations "would have developed much more than now," he said.

Over the weekend, Kim Yo-jong, an influential sister of the North's leader, issued yet another provocative statement saying that the military would be in charge of a next step to respond to the distribution of anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets by some activists here across the border.

South Korea's ruling Democratic Party also urged Pyongyang to patiently take a "trust-based" approach.

North Korea needs to "understand differences in the political systems of South and North Korea and have trust in the commitment of the Moon Jae-in administration and the Democratic Party," Lee Hae-chan, head of the liberal party, said.

The party's floor leader, Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, called on Washington to support the development of inter-Korean ties, asking the U.S. to help get sanctions exemptions for the resumption of the Kaesong industrial complex and the Mount Kumgang tour program.

A total of 173 lawmakers with the DP and other liberal parties submitted a resolution calling for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War that finished in an armistice.

The main opposition United Future Party (UFP), in contrast, condemned the Moon administration's policy on North Korea.

"The government's peace process and humiliating policy toward North Korea have collapsed," UFP floor leader Rep. Joo Ho-young said.

Under Moon's presidency, he argued, South Korea has failed to hold close consultations, especially with the U.S. and Japan, on the North Korea issue amid deepened diplomatic rifts with the two major powers.

The conservative party plans to submit a resolution demanding Pyongyang halt provocations and abandon its nuclear program.

lcd@yna.co.kr
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