By Kim Deok-hyun
SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he is willing to hold an inter-Korean summit without prerequisites in whatever format North Korea wants amid concern Pyongyang could end its self-imposed moratorium on long-range missiles launches.
Moon made the remark in a joint written interview with Yonhap News Agency and seven other global news wire services, warning that the Korean Peninsula may return to a "touch-and-go crisis" five years ago if the North goes ahead with its veiled threat to scrap the moratorium on missile launches and nuclear tests.
"As long as there is willingness to engage in dialogue, whether the summit will be held face-to-face or virtual does not matter. Whatever method North Korea wants will be acceptable," Moon said in the interview with Yonhap, AFP, AP, EFE, Kyodo, Reuters, Tass, Xinhua.
"Also, it is not desirable to place prerequisites for dialogue. I believe that it would be beneficial to discuss even such prerequisites at a negotiating table," he said.
Moon added, however, that there is not much time left before his term ends in May and that the "the timing of the incoming presidential election and its result may make it inappropriate to hold an inter-Korean summit."
In January alone, North Korea conducted seven missile tests -- including what it claims to be a hypersonic missile and an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM). The IRMB launch marked the North's longest-range missile test since the test-firing of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in November 2017.
That sparked worries that Pyongyang is close to ditching the moratorium on intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launches and nuclear tests that the regime declared in 2018 as part of a charm offensive that led to a series of inter-Korean summits and the first-ever summit between North Korea and the United States.
"If North Korea's series of missile launches goes as far as scrapping a moratorium on long-range missile tests, the Korean Peninsula may instantly fall back into the state of crisis we faced five years ago," Moon said.
"Preventing such a crisis through persistent dialogue and diplomacy will be the task that political leaders in the countries concerned must fulfill together," he said.
North Korea has shunned talks on its nuclear program since the no-deal second summit in Hanoi in 2019 between leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump. Kim and Trump held their first summit in Singapore in 2018.
Moon said it was "very regrettable" that the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump ended without a deal.
"It would have been best if a 'big deal' had been reached at the Hanoi Summit. If that was too hard, however, I think a 'small deal' should have been sought to take a phased approach," Moon said.
"It is very regrettable that the summit ended in 'no deal' when the continuation of dialogue should have been ensured at least," Moon said.
With regard to North Korea-U.S. relations, Moon said he believes U.S. President Joe Biden and North Korean leader Kim will meet eventually to discuss the North's nuclear weapons program.
"Since dialogue is the only way to resolve problems, a meeting between President Biden and Chairman Kim is expected to take place eventually. It is just a matter of time," Moon said.
Moon, whose single five-year term ends in May, has pursued a declaration ending the 1950-53 Korean War in an efforts to jumpstart the long-stalled talks with North Korea. Moon said South Korea and the U.S. have agreed on the wording of the declaration, with China also supporting it.
Although Seoul and Washington have made considerable progress in efforts to adopt the declaration, its fate remains uncertain as Pyongyang has been unresponsive to their overtures for dialogue.
"An end-of-war declaration is useful since it signifies a process to promote mutual trust and a move toward denuclearization and the institutionalization of peace on the Korean Peninsula while putting an end to hostile relations," Moon said.
"In addition, the Republic of Korea and the United States have now concurred on the wording of an end-of-war declaration to be presented to North Korea. Even China supports this declaration," Moon said, referring to South Korea by its official name.
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