South Korea's Moon Jae-in: Joint exercises not negotiable

By Elizabeth Shim  |  Nov. 10, 2017 at 11:26 AM
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Nov. 10 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in ruled out the suspension of joint U.S.-South Korea exercises in exchange for a potential North Korea proposal to end weapons tests.

Moon made the remarks to Channel News Asia, which aired the exclusive interview on Thursday, following news reports of comments from a U.S. State Department official on direct negotiations with Pyongyang.

Joseph Yun, the U.S. special envoy for North Korea policy, said at the Council on Foreign Relations, a 60-day pause on nuclear and missile tests could prompt the United States to resume direct talks with the Kim Jong Un regime, the Washington Post reported.

According to the Post, the remarks were made off the record and later described by two people present at the event.

Yun has refused to comment on the statement.

The call for talks ahead of a North Korea commitment to full denuclearization could be premature, as some analysts have said a promise to denuclearize must be the precondition for any official dialogue.

But Trump administration officials may be willing to be more flexible.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in August, when tensions reached new highs, a pause on provocations could be an opportunity to extend an exit ramp to North Korea.

"The best signal that North Korea could give us that they're prepared to talk would be to stop these missile launches," Tillerson said. "We've not had an extended period of time where they have not taken some type of provocative action by launching ballistic missiles. So I think that would be the first and strongest signal they could send us is just stop, stop these missile launches."

By November, North Korea had not tested additional weapons for more than a month, despite threats to test a hydrogen bomb above ground from North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho.

In Seoul, Moon has been drawing a firm line on North Korea, overturning proposals he made during his presidential campaign to take a conciliatory approach to Pyongyang.

Moon told Channel News Asia North Korea must show a willingness to end nuclear and missile provocations.

Only then can dialogue can begin, Moon said.

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