JEJU -- President Moon Jae-in on Thursday pledged to take the lead in North Korea’s nuclear issues without “leaning on the role of other countries,” in a veiled swipe at growing calls for China to play a greater role in tackling the dilemma.
Despite concerns over his reconciliatory approach to Pyongyang, the liberal leader said he would respond to the recalcitrant neighbor’s provocations with robust punishment in line with the international community.
“We will convince and pressure North Korea together with the US, China and other relevant nations to drive it to a forum for dialogue and achieve the resolution of the nuclear issues and the improvement in inter-Korean and North Korea-US relations” Moon said in a video message to the Jeju Forum.
“The Republic of Korea will take the lead in the peninsula issues without leaning on the role of other countries.”
The North’s ongoing series of missile tests poses a critical challenge to the peace and stability of not only the peninsula but the world, Moon said, vowing to strongly deal with its provocations.
“If North Korea presses ahead with armed provocations, I clearly promise I will sternly retaliate with the robust alliance with the US and our own defense capabilities so as to safeguard peace,” he said.
The remarks came shortly after Pyongyang carried out its third test of a ballistic missile since the president took office on May 10. The ceaseless provocations have triggered concerns that Moon’s pursuit of a thaw with the unruly regime may drive a wedge in the partnership between Seoul, Washington and Tokyo.
Moon sent mixed signals during the speech. While seeking to ease concerns, he at the same time introduced his vision to foster an “inter-Korean economic community” that he said would pave the way for lasting peace on the peninsula.
This was part of his election pledge calling for a “New Korean Peninsula Economic Map.” It envisions formulating joint industrial zones and traffic networks along the eastern and western coastal areas including by reopening the now closed Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumkang, which critics say would help fatten the Kim Jong-un regime’s coffers and may breach international sanctions.
“A peaceful peninsula is no longer a dream,” Moon said. “During my term, I will bring about a novel milestone in fostering peace on the peninsula.”
The president stressed the need to continue addressing the North’s human rights issues, pledging to enhance the country’s policy and system “without hesitance as a universal value of humanity” in collaboration with the international community.
He also promised to continue a fact-finding probe and efforts to recover the honor of those hurt by an uprising on April 3, 1969, during which more than 14,000 Jeju residents who were fighting against a controversial election were killed by riot police.
For the first time this year, the Jeju Forum hosted a special session on the massacre ahead of its 70th anniversary, which Moon said he hoped would provide a chance to heal the suffering and wounds of the islanders.
“Tens of thousands of benign residents were sacrificed for the sake of ideology, a pain we had to suffer from at the forefront of the global Cold War,” the president said.
“We will fulfill all lingering state responsibilities going forward, including further fact-finding activities and helping regain the victims’ honors,” he added, noting a 2006 formal apology and a comprehensive investigation by then President Roh Moo-hyun to whom he was chief of staff.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)