Moon calls for talks with North, but is still cautious

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Moon calls for talks with North, but is still cautious


President Moon Jae-in, center, and the first lady, Kim Jung-sook, congratulate graduates of the Korea Military Academy at a graduation ceremony held at the academy in Seoul on Tuesday. [YONHAP]

South Korean President Moon Jae-in reiterated his call for dialogue with North Korea on Monday but also stressed the need to strengthen combined-defense capabilities with the United States, noting peace cannot last without strong military power.

“The foundation of peace is nothing but strong military power and defense readiness that do not tolerate any provocation,” the president said while attending the graduation ceremony of the Korea Military Academy. “Peace is our survival and a necessary condition for our prosperity. However, without a strong military and robust national defense, we can neither make nor maintain peace,” he added.

The president noted the importance of holding dialogue with North Korea but said the country still needed to be prepared for the worst.

“We must talk with North Korea for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. But at the same time, we must focus all our energy on building capabilities that can counter North Korea and its missiles quickly and practically,” he told the ceremony to commission 223 new Army officers. Moon’s remarks come amid a two-day trip by his special envoys to North Korea that is widely believed to be aimed at persuading the reclusive North to hold dialogue with the United States.

The rare North Korea trip by South Korean officials, headed by Moon’s top security adviser, came after Kim Yong-chol, the North’s point man on South Korea, said his country had enough willingness to talk with the United States. Washington too has said it may be willing to hold dialogue with the communist state but only under the right conditions.

An official from the Blue House earlier said the trip by the South Korean envoys will not be “disappointing,” noting they held a very lengthy meeting and dinner with the North’s reclusive leader Kim Jong-un on Monday.

Moon said the trip marked the start of his country’s efforts to build peace. “I sent a special delegation of envoys to North Korea yesterday. We now have embarked on a journey for peace and prosperity with a belief that we can achieve our goal of establishing peace and denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula through our own efforts,” he said.

The president said his country will also continue to strengthen its alliance and combined defense capabilities with the United States.

“I will further develop and strengthen the Korea-U.S. joint defense posture,” Moon said. “I will also continue my efforts to win the full support of other neighboring countries and the international community for peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

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