(2nd LD) Moon says nuclear talks with N. Korea may be far away, but not humanitarian dialogue
SEOUL-- President Moon Jae-in reiterated his decision to resume talks with North Korea on Wednesday, saying inter-Korean dialogue will be aimed at addressing humanitarian issues that may in turn help denuclearize the communist state.
The new South Korean president also insisted the decision on whether to resume such dialogue was entirely up to his country.
Moon's remarks came two days after his government proposed holding military and Red Cross talks with Pyongyang, which, if held, would mark a resumption of inter-Korean dialogue that has nearly come to naught over the past five years under Seoul's former conservative administration.
The U.S., however, has expressed its apparent opposition to resuming inter-Korean talks in the near future, noting the current conditions were "far away" from those needed for the resumption of dialogue with Pyongyang.
Moon agreed the current conditions may be off from those needed for the resumption of denuclearization negotiations with the North, but said the meetings recently proposed by his government had to do with humanitarian issues, according to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
"When I met with the leaders of the United States and Japan, I repeatedly explained the difference between dialogue on denuclearization and talks on non-political, humanitarian issues," the president was quoted as saying while meeting with four ruling and opposition party leaders at Cheong Wa Dae.
"Denuclearization talks require the right conditions, though we have not reached an agreement on what those conditions are. Separately, humanitarian dialogue is what we will lead," he said, according to Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun.
Wednesday's meeting came at the request of the president who offered to explain the outcome of his recent participation in the Group of 20 summit in Germany, as well as his earlier trip to Washington for a bilateral summit with U.S. President Donald Trump.
The five-way meeting, however, also provided the president with a rare opportunity to personally explain his policy aims to the opposition leaders.
The meeting involved Park Joo-sun of the liberal People's Party, Lee Hye-hoon of the splinter conservative Bareun Party and Lee Jeong-mi of the progressive Justice Party, along with ruling Democratic Party chief Choo Mi-ae.
Hong Joon-pyo of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party boycotted the meeting.
The president used the opportunity to also renew his call for parliamentary approval of a government bill on an extra budget, saying it will be a little push but all that is needed to put the economy on the right track.
"It is clear our economy too is beginning to improve. We have confidence that we can further improve the economy with just a little push," he told the meeting.
The government is seeking an 11.2 trillion won (US$9.96 billion) supplementary budget, part of which is earmarked for up to 110,000 new jobs in the public sector.
The budget bill, however, has remained blocked partly due to opposition objections and also paralysis at the National Assembly caused by an opposition boycott over some of Moon's controversial minister nominees.
The People's Party ended its prolonged boycott of parliamentary sessions following what it called an apology from the president over remarks from the ruling party leader attacking the opposition party.
Still, the rival parties remain unable to narrow their gap over the supplementary budget nearly two months after it was submitted.
"I wish to ask you party leaders to show your leadership so that we may revive the economy," the president said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.
Regarding the recent controversy over his energy plan that included the permanent shutdown of an aged nuclear reactor and a temporary suspension in the ongoing construction of two new reactors, the president said he was willing to withdraw his election pledge regarding the issue if demanded by the people.
"You say I may be pushing my policy on nuclear energy, but it is quite the opposite. My election pledge was to completely scrap the construction of the New Kori 5 and 6 reactors, but we are now collecting public opinions because I believed it would be unreasonable to move ahead simply because it was what I had promised," the president said, according to the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman.
Source: Yonhap News Agency