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Published On: Sat, Jul 1st, 2017

South Korean president: ‘retreat’ not an option on North Korea

Elizabeth Shim
United Press International

WASHINGTON (UPI) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a “retreat” from the threat of North Korea‘s growing nuclear weapons program is no longer an option, echoing earlier statements from U.S. President Donald Trump “patience is over” as a strategy when dealing with Pyongyang.

President of South Korea Moon Jae-in and President Donald Trump walk out to take part in a joint statement on the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Moon later spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. (Photo by Molly Riley/UPI)

“Even as we face the most imminent and dangerous menace in the world, we should no longer continue to retreat but move forward and take a new leap toward the future,” Moon said Friday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., following a summit with Trump.

The recently elected South Korean leader, however, did not rule out dialogue with the North under the right conditions.

“Provocations by the North must be met with a stern and firm response, yet at the same time engaging in dialogue with Chairman Kim Jong Un is also necessary,” Moon said. “[Kim] is the only one who can decide to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear weapons.”

Trump had said earlier at the White House strategic patience with North Korea had failed, referring to a North Korea policy approach of the Obama administration.

According to Moon, both leaders agreed that under the “right conditions we can have dialogue with North Korea.”

The conditions the United States and South Korea have in mind include a “completely verified” process that would begin with the “freeze of nuclear and missile capabilities all the way to complete dismantlement,” the South Korean president said.

Moon also cleared up miscommunication that may have surfaced when one of his advisors, Moon Chung-in, had suggested at a forum in Washington D.C., Seoul may scale back joint military exercises in exchange for a freeze on North Korea tests.

The president said his advisor was expressing his personal opinions and the statement did not reflect the views of his administration.

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations are illegal activities which violate both various U.N. Security Council resolutions and international norms, whereas the military exercises jointly conducted by Korea and the United States are military exercises of a defensive nature that are legitimate,” Moon said Friday, adding Seoul would never reward Pyongyang’s bad behavior.

The president also said China’s economic retaliation against Seoul for THAAD deployment is “not right” because of its interference with a “sovereign” South Korean decision to deploy U.S. missile defense.

Moon said unofficial Chinese sanctions have incurred $8 billion of damages to the South Korean economy.

The South Korean president also expressed his condolences for the family of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old Ohio native who passed away shortly after being released from North Korea.

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South Korean president: ‘retreat’ not an option on North Korea