Ahn urges Pyongyang to forgo nukesIndependent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo called on North Korea yesterday to give up its nuclear weapons and return to six-party disarmament talks as he sought to boost his image as an advocate for strong national security.
“North Korea should give up its nuclear weapons,” Ahn said during a foreign policy briefing at his Seoul office. “[The North] should promptly return to the six-party talks to start processes for resolving nuclear issues.” Pyongyang conducted nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, sparking international economic sanctions on the reclusive state. Shortly after its second test, the North walked away from the multilateral talks, which also include South Korea, the U.S., China, Japan and Russia.
Ahn’s call came as the soft-spoken former professor with no political experience has faced questions whether he is fit to lead the country, which is still technically at war with its northern communist neighbor after the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce.
Earlier this month, Ahn visited a front-line barracks, where he posed for photographs.
The 50-year-old is currently in negotiations with fellow liberal candidate Moon Jae-in of the main opposition Democratic United Party to merge their campaigns. The two have not yet decided how to pick a final contender to run against their conservative rival.
“North Korea’s military provocations cannot be accepted in any case,” Ahn said. “Our military should maintain high military readiness to protect the people.”
Ahn, who served as a doctor in the Navy, said he will firmly defend the tense western sea border, known as the Northern Limit Line (NLL). Pyongyang refuses to accept the border and demands it be drawn further south.
“The NLL is a maritime boundary agreed by South and North Korea, which cannot be compromised under any circumstances,” Ahn said. “I will firmly defend the NLL and territorial sovereignty.” Fellow liberal candidate Moon has been criticized as being soft on defense of the NLL during the campaign.
Ahn also vowed to proceed with the transition of wartime operational command control (Opcon) from Washington at the end of 2015 as scheduled.
“I will push for the Opcon transition in 2015 as agreed by the South Korean and U.S. governments and will continue to strengthen the military alliance between the two nations,” he said. “Opcon transition is a new challenge and opportunity for us. I will beef up national security to establish a stronger joint security system in the future.”