On Saturday, US President Donald Trump is expected to arrive at Seoul, South Korea, to discuss North Korean nuclear disarmament after the February US-DPRK summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, failed to make any progress on the matter.
"Trump will visit the Republic of Korea to meet with President Moon Jae In, in conjunction with his travel to the region to attend the G20 Summit in late June," a White House statement released last month, referring to South Korea’s official name. "President Trump and President Moon will continue their close coordination on efforts to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,” which is North Korea’s official name.
According to Moon, who spoke exclusively to Loud & Clear producer Walter Smolarek in Seoul, the US has yet to send any “clear message” to Pyongyang, despite the fact that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un confirmed that he had received a personal letter from Trump, describing the missive’s content as “excellent.”
“President Trump has been sending words to Pyongyang that ‘I have unwavering trust in you.’ ‘Our relations are good.’ ‘I want to have a dialogue.’ The US hasn’t sent any clear message to Pyongyang,” Moon explained. “[US National Security Adviser] John Bolton and [US Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo keep telling North Korea that until there is complete denuclearization, there will be no relaxation of sanctions. Under that condition, North Korea is unlikely to come out to have a dialogue with the US.”
“The root cause of the US-DPRK relations comes from the enmity, hostile relations. The US should show some gesture that it is going to reduce tension. The US can start with [the] release of Wise Honest, a [North Korean] cargo vessel which is detained by the American government in Samoa,” Moon added. “Maybe [the] first step would be the negotiation and release of Wise Honest. I think that can serve as a very good starting point.”
The US government seized the North Korean cargo vessel for allegedly violating sanctions by engaging in illicit shipments of coal transfers, the US Department of Justice said in a press release last month.
“You cannot make North Korea denuclearize unless there is progress in peace in the Korean Peninsula. Therefore, the denuclearization of North Korea should go into tandem with peace-regime-making in Korea,” Moon averred, adding that such a process “can start with the adoption of the end of the war declaration, and it should be followed by a peace accord between North and South Korea, the US and China. And then they [US and Korean leaders] can talk about the non-aggression treaty between the US and DPRK.”
“A peace treaty is a more tangible move toward concrete denuclearization of North Korea,” Moon explained, adding that the US and North Korea have different positions when it comes to disarmament.
“The US is demanding North Korea to dismantle nuclear, biochemical and missile capability upfront … but [the] North Korean position is different. [The North Korean principle is] ‘Let’s do negotiation based on the principle of action for action,’” Moon explained, also noting that North Korea is suspicious of both South Korea and the US because of their joint military exercises.
Washington and Seoul have frequently held such exercises, which are perceived by Pyongyang as acts of aggression against it. Russia and China have repeatedly condemned the United States for holding such drills and urged all the sides involved to refrain from provocations that could further escalate the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Sputnik reported. In March, the US said that it would end large-scale joint military exercises with South Korea.
According to Moon, the South Korean president recognizes the significance of maintaining peace with North Korea.
“President Moon has every reason to maintain peace in Korea … but he realized that the peacekeeping through military deterrence and alliance is not sufficient. If we stick to that strategy, then we will be falling into the trap … that is why he proposes peacemaking … Peacemaking refers to tension reduction, adoption of the end of war declaration and adoption of some sort of peace accord in Korea … He supports peacekeeping, peacemaking and peace-building,” Moon explained.
“Compared with [former US President Barack] Obama, President Trump has been much more forthcoming. Obama once said he is willing to [meet the] North Korea leader. He never did that,” Moon continued. “Trump made a point … he met the North Korean leader twice and … he has brought the diplomacy. He is now being portrayed as some kind of hero in peacemaking in Korea. So far, he has made very sincere diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korea nuclear problem peacefully.”
However, despite the fact that Trump has been portrayed as a peacemaker in Korea, the DPRK has been subject to numerous UN sanctions over the past 10 years for its nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
“For North Korea, sanctions [are] the most important indicator of American enmity against North Korea. North Korea sees sanctions relief as the first measure toward a new relationship. [The] American position is different. Sanction relief can only be done after North Korea does denuclearization,” Moon said.
“There is a huge perceptual gap between Pyongyang and Washington. President Moon Jae In has been arguing that if North Korea dismantles all nuclear facilities, why don’t we give [North Korea] some kind of [sanctions] break?”
In addition, Moon noted that a third summit between Trump and Kim is necessary to “facilitate the process of denuclearization.”