Reopening dialogue with Pyongyang is crucial for South Korean President Moon Jae-in
Former North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, left, and former South Korean President Kim Dae-jung shake hands in Pyongyang. South Korea offered Monday, July 17, 2017, to talk with North Korea to ease animosities along their tense border and resume reunions of families separated by their war in the 1950s. (Yonhap/Pool Photo via AP, File), photo: Yonhap/Pool Photo via AP, File
10 of August 2017 13:40:44
SEOUL – With liberals back in charge in South Korea, Seoul is making peace offerings to its archrivals, but the North isn't biting.South Korean President Moon Jae-in believes the best way to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis is engagement of the sort that two past liberal leaders used to win historic summits with Pyongyang.The problem, as clearly demonstrated during the last several chaotic days, is that North Korea doesn't want to talk.Instead, it has been testing missiles at an unprecedented pace and threatening to launch some of those toward Guam. Pyongyang may be looking to eventually use the existence of its nuclear weapons to negotiate a peace treaty with the United States to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War and remove U.S. troops from the South. Until, and unless, that happens, Seoul probably will have little luck building bridges.This puts Moon in a bind, forcing him right when his inclination is to go left.'SUNSHINE' REDUXThe Koreas last held formal talks in December 2015. Since then, North Korea has conducted a torrent of missile tests and two nuclear tests, boosting its efforts to make nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles.Moon, who took office in May, made his most ambitious plea for engagement two days after North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile last month.In a July 6 speech in Berlin, Moon vowed to build on the legacies of late liberal leaders Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun and their so-called "Sunshine Policy." Seoul's economic inducements resulted in two historic summit meetings and temporary rapprochement between the Koreas in the 2000s.Moon said the Koreas should start off with "easy" subjects. He proposed talks for reducing animosities across their heavily armed border and a resumption of meetings between aging relatives separated by war. He invited the North to participate in next year's Winter Olympics, which South Korea is hosting. And he proposed ambitious longer-term projects, such as reconnecting an inter-Korean railway and building a gas pipeline connecting the Koreas with Russia.Moon said he wasn't offering unconditional cooperation. He condemned the ICBM launch and said the North could guarantee its security only through "complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization." He said he was willing to meet with North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, but only under the right conditions.The North Korean response was blunt. It ridiculed his comments, ignored his proposals and conducted its second ICBM test on July 28.