Moon, Macron to hold talks on N. Korea, bilateral ties

PARIS, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and French President Emmanuel Macron will hold talks this week that will likely focus on North Korea amid Seoul's efforts to peacefully denuclearize the communist state, officials from Moon's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said Sunday.

The two heads of state will hold a bilateral summit Monday, following a welcome ceremony for the South Korean chief executive who arrived in Paris on Saturday on a four-day state visit.

The Moon-Macron summit will mark the second of its kind since both leaders took office in May 2017. They first met on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit held in Germany last year.

Moon's trip here comes amid efforts to rid the North of its nuclear weapons, but the South Korean leader was widely expected to rally support for inter-Korean rapprochement and economic cooperation that he says may help accelerate the North's denuclearization process.

"North Korea promised complete denuclearization. It said it will give up nukes for economic development. (It) promised that it has no reason whatsoever to possess nukes while facing difficulties, such as sanctions, as long as the safety of its regime is guaranteed," Moon said in a recent interview with Britain's BBC News, apparently highlighting how much weight Pyongyang places on economic development.

Moon made his first-ever trip to the North Korean capital last month for his third bilateral summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Kim had committed to complete denuclearization of his country in his first meeting with Moon, held in April, and again in his historic summit with U.S. President Donald Trump held in Singapore in June.

North Korea has taken some meaningful denuclearization steps, such as the dismantlement of its only nuclear test site in northeastern Punggye-ri, but its denuclearization process nearly halted after Trump called off a scheduled North Korea trip by his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, citing what he called a lack of progress.

Pyongyang has agreed to resume its denuclearization process shortly after the third Moon-Kim summit but is demanding timely rewards for denuclearization measures it has taken or promised to take.

Moon says Seoul will not take any measures to reward the North outside of the international sanctions regime but insists the international community needs to start considering easing or even removing its sanctions against the North when the time comes.

"I believe North Korea must move forward with actual denuclearization steps to enable such a condition. U.N. sanctions, as you may know, have intensified amid North Korea's continued provocations. I believe if North Korea continues to take sincere denuclearization steps and when it is believed to have reached a point of no return, the U.N. sanctions may start to be eased," he has said.

France, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, might just be the start of Moon's efforts to win international sympathy for the impoverished North.

"Most of all, I will ask France, which is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a key member of the EU, to lend its support for denuclearization and lasting peace of the Korean Peninsula," Moon said while meeting with a group of South Korean residents here Saturday.

"I am confident a peaceful Korean Peninsula will soon come to us. I will build a Republic of Korea that you can be proud of," he added, referring to his country by its official name.

The South Korean president will end his four-day visit here Tuesday to head for Italy, where he will make an official visit to Rome and the Vatican.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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