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Moon calls on North to uphold inter-Korean agreements, joint projects

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in on Monday called for the two Koreas to seek projects that can be carried out without the involvement of the international community, saying there is no longer time to wait for conditions to improve.

Speaking at a weekly meeting with his senior aides, Moon said the spirit of the joint inter-Korean statement issued on June 15, 2000, should be remembered in times of difficult inter-Korean relations.

“The promise of peace on the Korean Peninsula Chairman Kim and I made in front of 80 million countrymen cannot be reversed,” Moon said, going on to say that April 27 Panmunjom Declaration and Sept. 19 Pyongyang joint statement in 2018 are “solemn promises” to be delivered on.

Urging Pyongyang to refrain from back-pedaling to confrontation, Moon said the two sides must now seek a breakthrough.

“As the holders of the peninsula’s destiny, the South and North should put into practice projects they can expand on their own,” Moon said.

“Efforts to gain the international community’s consent will go on. I hope the North will open the door to dialogue and work together.”

The comment comes days after the North launched a flurry of escalating threats against the South, complaining about leaflets sent by defector-run civic groups in Seoul, with Kim Yo-jong, leader Kim Jong-un’s sister, hinting at military strikes.

“Our revolutionary Army will decisively carry out action to relieve the fury of our people,” Pyongyang’s state-run newspaper said, calling Seoul “pathetic” because it has neither the will nor ability to clean up the “filth” flown there, referring to the anti-Kim leaflets.

Experts say that the renewed hostilities accompanying a new impasse in inter-Korean relations is premeditated, and cast doubt over the efficacy of Moon’s policies.

“Without the parallel pursuit of denuclearization, Moon’s peace drive is set to be short-lived,” said Shin Beom-chul, director of the Center for Diplomacy and Security at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

Choi Kang, vice president of the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, said, “Rapprochement efforts at this point will prove fruitless.”

Experts all agreed that the North would move to stage provocations, but not dare launching a direct confrontation with the South, as that would immediately call for a proportional, action-for-action military response not in Pyongyang’s favor

“The most obvious path for North Korea is a show of military might that is low-risk but high in propaganda value for audiences at home,” said Harry J. Kazianis, senior director of Korean Studies at the Washington-based Center for the National Interest.

Local experts agreed that missiles were always an option Pyongyang was willing to consider, but they largely served to draw Washington’s attention rather than Seoul’s.

Pyongyang could fire artillery rounds near a disputed maritime border with Seoul in the West Sea to try nullifying the 2018 inter-Korean military accord it said it would scrap, according to Shin and Choi.

The latest setback is a blow to South Korean President Moon, a pro-engagement leader seeking breakthroughs to improve the fraying inter-Korean ties, and his chief aides loyal to the engagement policies.

“There is still hope here, given the mutual trust President Moon and leader Kim have built over time,” Moon Chung-in, a special national security adviser to Moon, said Monday at a forum held as part of the peace ceremonies to mark the anniversary of June 15 joint declaration, the first of its kind the Koreas put out together in 2000.

“There’s a trace of wishful thinking in the administration’s dealings with Pyongyang,” said Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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