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Moon: N. Korea sticks to moratorium on nuclear, ICBM testing, leaving door open for dialogue

All News 06:00 September 24, 2021

By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in has said North Korea is maintaining its own moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests, apparently leaving the door open for dialogue.

Pyongyang seems to be making "various considerations," refraining from taking serious provocative acts that would lead the United States to give up dialogue, Moon said in his rare in-flight press briefing on his way back to Seoul on Thursday following a five-day visit to New York and Hawaii.

He was explaining the background of his reiterated proposal for the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War during his U.N. General Assembly speech earlier this week.

"I think it is time to hold dialogue again with North Korea quickly," and the U.S. has also expressed its "strong will" to do so, Moon emphasized.

President Moon Jae-in delivers a speech at the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York on Sept. 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

There has been no significant dialogue with North Korea since the no-deal Hanoi summit in early 2019 between its leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump. There is a realistic problem as well in holding inter-Korean talks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

If the "dialogue vacuum" prolongs, various types of "crisis situations" may be created and peace and stability could be shaken, he said.

The North recently fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the East Sea following a long-range cruise missile test.

But North Korea engaged just in "low-intensity" acts of escalating tensions, which are not serious enough to make the U.S. abandon dialogue, maintaining the self-imposed moratorium on nuclear testing and intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches, according to Moon.

"It appears to be making various considerations, keeping the door for dialogue open," he said.

Moon said he is not sure how the security situations will unfold, although Pyongyang is expected to conclude taking the path of dialogue and diplomacy would be in its interests.

The president said he has once again offered the end-of-war declaration at the U.N. since the time has come that dialogue is necessary again.

Regarding signatories to the war-ending declaration, Moon said the two Koreas and the U.S. need to make the push and China can join it if it wants.

He dismissed the view that some of the parties are lukewarm toward the suggestion.

"There is a consensus that the end-of-war declaration is necessary," he said, calling for a "more strategic consideration" on the timing of using the card in two-track negotiations on denuclearization and a process for a peace treaty.

Such a political declaration is different from a peace treaty itself, and it means entering talks on it without any change in related "legal status," the president pointed out.

It has nothing to do with the issues of the withdrawal of the U.S. Forces Korea and their alliance, as officially ending the conflict and normalizing Washington-Pyongyang relations are associated with the signing of a peace treaty, he added.

Moon said he had hoped for a breakthrough in stalled inter-Korean relations on the occasion of this year's U.N. General Assembly meeting, with the two Koreas marking the 30th anniversary of becoming U.N. members simultaneously.

"However, it was not done as intended," he said.

Asked about the possibility of the government easing social distancing rules in a new campaign to live with the coronavirus, he said it will be able to make public a relevant plan "around next month."

More than 70 percent of South Koreans are expected to be fully vaccinated by the end of October. He was also confident that South Korea will have sufficient vaccines secured, going forward.

On the ruling Democratic Party's controversial push for legislation on imposing heavier punishment against news outlets deliberately publishing false or fabricated news, the president agreed on the need to take into account concerns raised by the media, civic groups and the international community.


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