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Full text of interview with Moon

All News 10:30 February 10, 2022

SEOUL, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- The following is the second part of an unofficial translation of President Moon Jae-in's joint written interview with Yonhap News Agency and seven other global news agencies: AFP, AP, EFE, Kyodo, Reuters, Tass, Xinhua.

QUESTION 7: The Korean Government earlier praised U.S. President Joe Biden's intention to pursue a "calibrated, practical approach" to North Korea. However, some commentators say it actually doesn't seem much different from former-President Obama's policy of "strategic patience." How do you evaluate the Biden Administration's policy toward North Korea at this point? Do you believe it has helped or hindered the ability to engage North Korea? (Reuters) How do you see the chances of a meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of North Korea Kim Jong Un? (AFP)

ANSWER: Amid the approaches through diplomacy and dialogue, President Biden has repeatedly expressed his willingness to actively engage in talks to resolve North Korea issues. In addition, I don't believe he has returned to the "strategic patience" of the past because he continues to make practical efforts to resume dialogue. The documents that the United States and North Korea had previously signed were passed on to him, and he expressed his willingness and readiness to engage in the talks with North Korea by appointing a special representative for the North at a joint press conference following the ROK-U.S. summit in May last year. On top of this, the US is also making practical efforts to contact North Korea while consistently emphasizing that the issue of denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula is one of the priorities of his Administration's foreign policy and that the United States is ready to meet North Korea anytime, anywhere without preconditions.

The Biden Administration's North Korea policy is also a result of close cooperation with my Administration, and we greatly welcome and support this very pragmatic and realistic approach aimed at denuclearization and institutionalization of peace on the Peninsula which arose from an objective assessment of the collapse of the summit in Hanoi.

However, to my regret, talks and negotiations have yet to materialize even after the inauguration of the Biden Administration. 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. If North Korea-U.S. talks resume and the leaders of the United States and North Korea hold a historic summit once again, I expect and hope that – unlike in Hanoi – substantive progress toward denuclearization of the Peninsula, the establishment of a peace regime and normalization of North Korea-U.S. relations will be made. The relevant countries should pool their wisdom and seek creative strategies under the principle of resolving issues through dialogue and diplomacy without aggravating the situation.

QUESTION 8: It seems that the Korean Government wants to restore relations with North Korea while sidestepping human rights issues in North Korea. With inter-Korean relations seemingly as strained as before, do you regret not having worked more to highlight or help the difficult human rights situation facing North Koreans? (Reuters)

ANSWER: My Administration attaches importance to human rights – a universal value of humankind – and is continuing to work with the international community and the private sector to substantively promote North Koreans' human rights and improve the humanitarian situation there. At the ROK-U.S. summit in May last year, we also agreed to work together to improve the human rights situation in North Korea and facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid to North Koreans. As such, the Korean Government has been working closely with the international community with regard to human rights issues in North Korea.

Efforts for the improvement of inter-Korean and North Korea-U.S. relations as well as the establishment of peace on the Peninsula are also very crucial for ultimately improving the human rights situation in North Korea. I believe that helping North Korea become a responsible member of the international community and move toward a more transparent and open society as it actively engages in exchanges with other countries will be a shortcut to the substantive promotion of human rights in the country.

QUESTION 9: It seems difficult to reset relations with China in the face of the U.S.-China conflict. The U.S.-centered pressure front on China is strengthening, and the United States is emphasizing trilateral cooperation together with South Korea and Japan. How would you advise the next Korean president to strike a balance between the United States and China as well as between China and Japan? In Korea, there is a growing antipathy toward China, especially among young people. What are the measures for future-oriented Korea-China relations in the year marking the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries? Although your term will end soon, is there a possibility of a summit with President Xi Jinping? (Yonhap, EFE, Xinhua)

ANSWER: The United States is our only ally, and the ROK-U.S. alliance is the backbone of our diplomatic and security policies and the cornerstone for peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. Linked to the Peninsula, China is our close neighbor, largest trading partner and a strategic partner for cooperation. The Korean Government has been working closely with the United States and China, maintaining the position of cultivating Korea-China relations in a harmonious manner based on the robust ROK-U.S. alliance. I look forward to the next administration continuing these efforts.

The reality is that U.S.-China relations have a profound impact on not only those two countries but also on peace and stability in Northeast Asia. Contributing to facilitate communication and cooperation between the United States and China is also a necessary role for the Korean Government.

I hope that China-Japan relations will also develop in a direction that contributes to peace and prosperity in the region. However, the annual Korea-China-Japan Summit has not been held for the past two years. It is by no means desirable that political reasons prevent a trilateral summit from being held. I believe we all should work together to create a virtuous cycle in which ever growing cooperation in Northeast Asia advances respective bilateral relations between Korea, China and Japan.

Relations between Korea and China have made remarkable progress in the 30 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992. From a forward-looking perspective envisioning the next 30 years, we will have to make our bilateral relations more mature and solid.

While we work jointly to provide our two peoples substantive benefits by continuously strengthening economic cooperation, it is especially necessary to enhance mutual understanding and expand friendly sentiment among the young – the future generations in both countries. People-to-people and cultural exchanges need to be promoted further to this end. The two countries declared 2021-2022 the Korea-China Cultural Exchange Year and agreed to map out a blueprint for the development of bilateral relations together over the next 30 years through the Korea-China Relations Future Development Committee.

In addition, Korea and China are strengthening communication not only on Korean Peninsula issues but also on such global issues as COVID-19 responses and climate change in line with the two countries' elevated status in the international community. The pandemic has hindered a summit with President Xi Jinping, but we have engaged in communication through various ways whenever necessary and will continue to do so going forward.

QUESTION 10: When it comes to Korea-Japan relations, no progress has been made regarding the comfort women victims of imperial Japan's military. The proposal by the former National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang to establish a Memory, Reconciliation and Future Foundation with donations from Korean and Japanese companies and citizens in order to provide compensation to the victims of forced labor during the Japanese colonial period also seems to be petering out. What do you think is the root cause of a failure to make progress in these discussions? Do you have any plans to address these issues or are you willing to propose a surprise Korea-Japan summit? (Yonhap, Kyodo)

ANSWER: Despite the steady efforts to resolve the pending issues between Korea and Japan through diplomacy, regrettably, we have yet to reach an agreement. The essence of history-related issues is that they are about human rights, which is a universal value of humankind. In order to resolve this problem, a solution must be acceptable to victims, which is also an established principle in the international community. To find a solution that can be accepted by victims and promote true reconciliation, I believe a sincere attitude and mindset toward history matter the most. From this point of view, the Korean Government is open to any proposals and looks forward to resolving the issues through dialogue.

Regrettably, however, the Japanese Government has recently begun to seek UNESCO World Heritage listing for a mine on its Sado Island. This is unnerving at a time when we should be resolving issues linked to our history and seeking to develop future-oriented relations. Along with the efforts for dialogue to make progress on history-related issues, there is a growing need to strengthen cooperation between Korea and Japan to deal with future tasks. Our position remains unchanged: We are always open to communication with the Japanese Prime Minister.

QUESTION 11: How would you evaluate Korea-Japan relations over the past five years? I'd like to take this opportunity to ask about how you see your neighbor Japan. If you could share any message you have to the Japanese people, I would be grateful. What advice are you eager to give the new administration in Korea regarding Korea-Japan relations? (Kyodo)

ANSWER: Korea and Japan are the closest of neighboring countries that must work together not only for bilateral relations but also for peace and prosperity in Northeast Asia and the world. To date, the Korean Government has strived to develop Korea-Japan relations in a stable manner by employing an approach that separates forward-looking cooperation in substantive areas from the resolution of past historical issues.

I expect the next administration to work hard to develop Korea-Japan relations. It is necessary to strengthen dialogue and communication between Korea and Japan to deal with such new challenges as climate change responses and issues related to global supply chains as well as matters regarding the past and the Korean Peninsula.

Korea and Japan have long shared history and culture. Even now, people in both countries share and enjoy each other's food and such cultural content as music and dramas. In particular, I believe both countries' cultures have been deeply permeated into the lives of young people, making significant contributions to enhancing favorable feelings toward one another. These active and friendly cultural exchanges are expected to serve as the basis for the forward-looking development of Korea-Japan relations.

However, there's always light and shade in all history. Some darkened portions linger as wounds. If we face this truth squarely and make efforts to heal the wounds together, relations between the two countries will be able to develop in a more solid manner – just as the ground hardens after the rain. In these trying times caused by COVID-19, I hope that the peoples of both countries will overcome difficulties together and normalize exchanges to once again embrace an era when the number of annual people-to-people exchanges comes to 10 million.

QUESTION 12: During your term in office, you have visited only one Latin American country – Argentina. Korea is playing an increasingly important role on the global stage, and Latin America can be seen as a strategic area with a population of more than 600 million. In your efforts to solidify relations between Korea and Latin America, what areas do you prefer to focus on? (EFE)

ANSWER: It is indeed regrettable that the prolonged COVID-19 situation has prevented me from visiting more Latin American countries. While sharing such universal values as democracy and the market economy, Korea and Latin America have developed substantive cooperative relations in various fields, including trade and investment, construction and infrastructure as well as people-to-people and cultural exchanges. In particular, the Korean Government has been working hard to diversify its diplomatic efforts, holding up Latin American countries as forward-looking partners in the post-COVID-19 era.

Even amid the COVID-19 situation, the Korean Government has been actively pushing exchanges and cooperation with leading Latin American countries. In particular, continued efforts have been made to expand economic and trade cooperation with Latin America, for instance, by putting the Korea-Central America FTA into effect, joining the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) and pushing to become an associate member of the Pacific Alliance. Last June – via videoconference – the Korea-SICA Summit was held for the first time in 11 years.

The Korean Government is actively cooperating to meet Latin America's calls for collaboration, including digital transformation, eco-friendly and green growth, and health security. Development cooperation was also accelerated by increasing our yearly ODA to three countries in the northern part of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – to US$220 million for 2021 to 2024. Last year, expanding strategic cooperation in Latin America was agreed upon during summits with Korea's major partners such as the United States and Spain.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Korea and 15 Latin American countries, and I hope to deepen cooperation with these countries further and jointly upgrade our relations in the coming 60 years as partners in mutually beneficial collaboration.
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