|President Moon Jae-in speaks during a New Year press conference at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. Yonhap|
By Do Je-hae
President Moon Jae-in underlined an agreement reached between the U.S. and North Korea in Singapore in 2018 as a starting point for diplomacy under the incoming Joe Biden administration during a New Year press conference, Monday.
The 2018 Singapore Declaration, the outcome of a summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on June 12, laid out the principles for establishing new U.S.-North Korea relations and building a robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. Moon stressed that the agreement between two of the combatants in the 1950-53 Korean War should be carried on with despite the change in administrations in the U.S. as the first step to breaking a prolonged deadlock in negotiations since the failure of a follow-up summit in Hanoi in February 2019.
"The Singapore Declaration under the Trump administration was a very important declaration for denuclearization and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula," Moon said during the conference at Cheong Wa Dae. "Of course, it is regrettable that the declaration fell short of bringing fundamental changes, and we haven't been able to move forward to a more concrete agreement since. I believe that we can speed up U.S.-North Korea as well as inter-Korean dialogue if we start again from where we left off with the Singapore Declaration and negotiate a more concrete plan."
Moon's remarks come amid concerns about the North Korean leader's reaffirmed commitment to build up his regime's nuclear capabilities during the recent Workers' Party Congress held in Pyongyang. The South Korean leader called for resuming "peace diplomacy" in order to ease military tension. "I think that North Korea's talk of a nuclear buildup and various weapons systems can be seen as a result of the deadlock in negotiations on denuclearization and the establishment of peace. If such negotiations are successfully concluded, I think that the military issues can be resolved at the same time."
|President Moon takes question during a press conference at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday. Yonhap|
Moon also showed high hopes for working with incoming U.S. President on a range of bilateral issues as well as North Korea, adding that he was looking forward to a summit with Biden at an early date. "If possible, I hope an early exchange between the leaders of our two countries will be realized so that we can build on trust and solidarity, as well as reaffirm our consensus on the Korean Peninsula issue and the peace process."
President Moon expects North Korea to be among the major diplomatic priorities for the Biden administration, given the new president's extensive experience as chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee and vice president. Moon said that Biden had been a staunch supporter of former President Kim Dae-jung's "Sunshine Policy" of engaging North Korea.
"I believe Biden is well aware of the North Korea issue, since he supported the Sunshine Policy. The figures set to join Biden's security team are mostly experts on Korean Peninsula issues and are supporters of dialogue with North Korea. I believe that North Korea will continue to be considered among the U.S. diplomatic policy priorities and the South Korea government will work closely with the U.S. to ensure this."
Regarding North Korean leader, Moon said that he still believed Kim was committed to denuclearization and would be willing to meet with him at any time.
Regarding the escalating tension with Japan over historical issues, Moon stressed that Seoul respects past diplomatic agreements with Tokyo despite a series of local court rulings on colonial era-related compensation that have triggered claims to the contrary. "Regarding the recent ruling on comfort women, there was an agreement between the two governments in 2015. We recognize that that agreement was the official bilateral agreement on this issue. Based on this foundation, we will seek to find a resolution that is acceptable to the victims through dialogue with Tokyo," Moon said.
The South Korean leader said he was still hoping for a reciprocal visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping once the COVID-19 pandemic is better under control. "Korea-China relations are very important. It is our biggest trading partner and we need to work together to advance peace on the Korean Peninsula."
This was the first time that Moon has held the New Year press conference at the briefing center at Cheong Wa Dae, with more than 100 members of the media participating virtually to keep social distancing measures amid the pandemic. The presidents has usually held the annual press conference at the Youngbingwan guesthouse at Cheong Wa Dae.