President may provide aid to Pyongyang

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President may provide aid to Pyongyang

South Korea’s policy on North Korea for the next five years under liberal President Moon Jae-in will be based on a dual-track approach that pressures Pyongyang to scrap its nuclear and missile programs while offering humanitarian aid to the country and allowing private inter-Korea exchanges, a senior government official in Seoul told the JoongAng Ilbo Tuesday.

The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to media on the matter, said the new strategy was based on President Moon’s vision that “keeping inter-Korea relations as icy as it is now” would disturb the more important goal of stabilizing peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Although Moon condemned North Korea’s bellicose behavior and the two recent missile tests since his inauguration on May 10, he is planning to build a “virtuous cycle” with Pyongyang, which will improve inter-Korea relations and solve the North’s nuclear issue, the source continued, by which he meant denuclearization.

When Moon is planning to publicly announce the dual-track system was not mentioned.

The statements are a significant stretch from a Monday regular briefing led by Lee Duk-haeng, South Korea’s spokesman for the Ministry of Unification, which handles inter-Korea relations, in which he said the government would “flexibly review” the resumption of inter-Korean exchanges in the private sector on the condition that they do not violate international sanctions against the North.

The former conservative Park Geun-hye administration disapproved of such communication and made denuclearization the prerequisite for any improvement of ties with the North. Whether Washington is aware of Moon’s new strategy is not known.

In an interview with NBC News two weeks ago, U.S. President Donald Trump said he was “going to see what happens” when asked whether Moon’s conciliatory approach to Pyongyang could mean a change in his North Korea policy of stepping up sanctions.

Trump and Moon both agreed to have talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as long as he halts his missile and nuclear tests.

On another front, the Blue House said Tuesday that Moon, a devout Catholic, will soon deliver a personally handwritten letter to Pope Francis, thanking him for visiting South Korea in August 2014 and “hoping he prays for peace and reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula.”

The letter will be handed by Archbishop Hyginus Kim Hee-joong of Gwangju, Moon’s special envoy to the Vatican and president of the Korean bishops’ conference. Kim, who recently arrived in Rome for his meeting with the pope, told the JoongAng Ilbo earlier Tuesday that Moon also asked Pope Francis in the letter to “help mediate a South-North summit,” which the Blue House later denied. A verbal message requesting the pope to help Moon bring Pyongyang to the discussion table has not been planned as well, said Blue House spokesman Park Soo-hyun.

BY JEONG YONG-SOO, PARK SEONG-HUN AND LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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