President Moon Jae-in speak at his New Year's press conference at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
President Moon Jae-in on Monday expressed high expectations in working with the upcoming Joe Biden administration, saying the launch of the new US government will become a “turning point” in resuming the stalled US-North Korea and inter-Korean talks.
“I think the launch of the Biden administration is a turning point for beginning US-North Korea, inter-Korean talks anew. The talks should inherit and develop from the achievements from the Trump administration,” Moon said during a New Year’s press conference held at Cheong Wa Dae.
“The Singapore declaration from the Trump administration was a very important declaration for denuclearization and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula. It is regrettable that the declaration ended as a basic statement, and did not lead on to a concrete agreement.”
The Singapore joint statement is the highest-level statement signed by US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following their first summit in June 2018. In the statement, the two leaders pledged to work toward denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula and creating a peace regime.
More detailed talks to follow up on those pledges, however, have been halted since the breakdown of their second meeting in Hanoi 2019, chilling inter-Korean relations over the past years as well.
The president admitted that the new Biden administration is facing a pile of urgent domestic issues, including the coronavirus pandemic, but stressed he has no doubts that the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is the new government’s priorities.
“Given some achievements made during the Trump administration, I think there is no reason for the Biden administration not to put a priority on the North Korean issue. If possible, I hope to hold a prompt summit meeting with the president-elect to build trust and bond,” he said.
He also showed respect for Biden and his foreign affairs team for their understanding on the North Korean issue, saying the two governments already agreed on key principles such as having a multilateral approach and focus on allies.
President Moon Jae-in's first virtual press conference is held at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday. (Cheong Wa Dae)
The press conference comes after North Korea renewed its commitment to further advancing nuclear capabilities at a rare party congress early this month. Regarding the North’s renewed nuclear threats, Moon said the issue also can be resolved when denuclearization and peace talks are resumed as soon as possible.
The president reaffirmed he is ready to talk with Kim “anywhere, anytime,” adding all the pending issues ranging from humanitarian partnerships to the South’s springtime joint military exercises with the US can be discussed once the North returns to the negotiating table.
“The joint drills between the South and the US also can be discussed as part of the peace process on the Korean Peninsula,” he said.
He referred to the suspended talks on the agreement made as part of the Pyongyang Joint Declaration, a result of the third summit between Moon and Kim in 2018, which is aimed at reducing border tensions and preventing accidental clashes between the two Koreas.
Moon who enters his final year in office in May pledged to make a last-ditch effort in the peace talks until the end.
“Time is ticking for my presidency as I enter the fifth year. But I won’t hurry. I’ll do my best in the remaining time of my term,” he said.
Moon’s annual live press conference went virtual for the first time this year due to the tightened social distancing rules here. Of the total 120 journalists, only 20 of them who were picked by lottery met the president face-to-face in the conference room while the remaining 100 reporters joined via a video link.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org