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(LEAD) Yoon says he doesn't want status quo changed by force in N. Korea

Politics 11:56 August 17, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with more remarks by Yoon from 4th para)
By Kim Deok-hyun and Lee Haye-ah

SEOUL, Aug. 17 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol said Wednesday that South Korea cannot provide North Korea with security guarantees, but he does not want the status quo changed "unreasonably or by force."

The remark, made in a press conference marking his 100 days in office, was seen as yet another olive branch to Pyongyang, days after he unveiled what he described as an "audacious" offer to rebuild the North's economy if the regime takes substantial steps toward denuclearization.

"Guaranteeing regime security is not something the Republic of Korea government can do," Yoon said, using South Korea's official name. "But neither I nor the Republic of Korea government wants the status quo changed unreasonably or by force in North Korea."

President Yoon Suk-yeol holds a news conference at the presidential office in Seoul on Aug. 17, 2022, on the occasion of his 100th day in office. (Yonhap)

Yoon's "audacious plan," the details of which he unveiled during his Liberation Day speech Monday, involves various programs that would be implemented in stages, including a large-scale food program, assistance for power generation, and infrastructure and port projects, in the event the North takes serious steps to denuclearize.

When asked if he plans to propose talks with the North in order to discuss his plan, Yoon said he has noted the need for dialogue with Pyongyang since his campaign.

"However, I said talks between the leaders of the South and the North and talks and negotiations between key working-level officials should not be a political show but helpful to the actual establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula and in Northeast Asia," he said during the press conference.

Yoon said the denuclearization roadmap he unveiled on Liberation Day is not the same as previous proposals because it does not require the North to fully dismantle its nuclear weapons program first but rather seeks a denuclearization commitment from the North.

"Only if we propose an agenda first can we wait for the other side's response, and only then will it be possible to have meaningful meetings or talks necessary for the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

On the historical disputes between South Korea and Japan, Yoon reiterated his belief that the two sides will be able to resolve them by strengthening "future-oriented cooperative relations."

Regarding solutions to a dispute over the South Korean Supreme Court's ruling ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of wartime forced labor, Yoon said the government is "deeply considering" ways to compensate the victims in a way that does not conflict with Japan's sovereignty concerns.

"I'm optimistic," he said.


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