South Korea President Moon Jae-in reaffirmed his commitment to diplomacy with North Korea on Thursday in a New Year's speech addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. File Photo by Monika Graff/UPI | License Photo
Jan. 7 (UPI) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged to make progress on North Korea "until the end," signaling his commitment to engagement after Pyongyang's demolition of an inter-Korean liaison office.
Moon said Thursday during a virtual New Year's meeting at the presidential Blue House Seoul is ready to commit time and effort to realize the "denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, permanent peace, and the development of inter-Korean relations," Donga Ilbo reported.
The South Korean leader's address to his country comes during a challenging period in the COVID-19 pandemic. The global "winter wave" of the novel coronavirus has led to hundreds of new cases daily in Korea in recent weeks. On Thursday, the country added 870 more cases, and confirmed more COVID-19 variant cases, according to Yonhap.
On Thursday, Moon said South Koreans are crossing the "last pinnacle" of the pandemic, and credited citizens for cooperating with social distancing guidelines.
"Through anti-epidemic measures, vaccines and treatments, we will surely overcome the coronavirus and restore our cherished everyday lives," Moon said.
The South Korean president did not mention the case of a seized South Korean tanker by Iran's armed forces this week. Iranian authorities have blamed the ship's parent company DM Shipping for alleged sea pollution. The company has denied the charges.
Moon could be negotiating with Tehran behind the scenes. According to South Korean press reports, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani allegedly sent letters to Moon, requesting medical equipment from South Korea. South Korean officials declined to comment on the report, according to Seoul Pyongyang News on Thursday.
South Korea's foreign ministry said Thursday Seoul's diplomats stationed in Tehran were able to meet with one crew member on the MT Hankuk Chemi. Communication could have been delayed after the diplomats traveled to Bandar Abbas, according to News 1 on Wednesday.