Moon Chung-in tells Washington it needs more flexibility

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Moon Chung-in tells Washington it needs more flexibility

A special adviser to President Moon Jae-in said Monday that the United States needs to show flexibility to break the impasse in nuclear negotiations with North Korea.

Moon Chung-in spoke at a public seminar in Washington D.C., saying the ongoing stalemate may force South Korea to break from its alignment with the United States and pursue an independent path toward inter-Korean economic cooperation.

“The United States needs to be more flexible and realistic,” he said at the Center for the National Interest. “You cannot really pursue the strategy of ‘You denuclearize first, and we’ll reward you.’ That won’t work.”

The United States has insisted that North Korea first take significant steps toward dismantling its nuclear weapons program before Washington offers sanctions relief and other concessions sought by Pyongyang.

North Korea has balked at the demands, saying the United States should first withdraw its “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang.

“There’s a complete parallel between Washington and Pyongyang,” the adviser said. “Both sides need to come up with some kind of compromise approach. And also, the United States needs to be more bold.”

With regard to any inter-Korean economic cooperation, he said, Seoul has been “100 percent” transparent with Washington under the international sanctions regime against Pyongyang.

“Overall sentiment in South Korea is this: If the United States fails to reopen negotiations with North Korea, and come up with some kind of negotiated settlement with North Korea, a lot of Moon Jae-in’s supporters are now raising voices that South Korea should take independent action,” the adviser said. “South Korea is a democracy and Moon Jae-in needs continued support from his supporters. If President Moon cannot deliver to his supporters, then he would face a political dilemma.”

Speaking in a private capacity, the adviser said he expects the president to say in an upcoming New Year’s speech that South Korea will continue to “rely on” the United States to solve the North Korean nuclear problem.

“But I don’t know to what extent he can really go along that line,” he said.

Moon also expressed support for a report by American political scientist Van Jackson, saying that under the overarching goal of achieving North Korea’s denuclearization, the United States may consider adopting a nuclear arms control approach.

Options would include signing a peace treaty with North Korea, a phased reduction of U.S. forces in South Korea in return for North Korea’s denuclearization, and providing sanctions relief with a “snapback” clause to ensure that the sanctions are reimposed in the event the North reneges on its commitments, he said.

Another option, he suggested, was to amend a recent draft United Nations Security Council resolution proposed by China and Russia on easing sanctions on North Korea.

He said the current proposal is “flawed” because it does not require North Korea to take denuclearization steps but that the United States, Britain and France can seek a creative solution.

The denuclearization talks have stalled since a failed second summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in February 2019.

Kim expressed frustration over the New Year holiday, saying he no longer felt bound by his own moratorium on nuclear and missile tests.

“The United States has heard North Korean grievances sufficiently, and now it’s time for North Korea to come back to the negotiation table and try to find some kind of a negotiated settlement,” Moon said. “What I want to emphasize is: Let us not be too rigid. Let us be flexible. Let us not be driven by inertia.”

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