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South Korea looks to jumpstart diplomacy in North Korea standoff

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By Associated Press

In an effort to jumpstart diplomacy, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday he would consider sending a special envoy to North Korea for talks if the North stops its missile and nuclear tests.

He also declared, amid fears in South Korea that threats from President Donald Trump to unleash “fire and fury” on Pyongyang could lead to real fighting, that there would be no second war on the Korean Peninsula.

“The people worked together to rebuild the country from the Korean War, and we cannot lose everything again because of a war,” Moon said in a nationally televised news conference. “I can confidently say there will not be a war again on the Korean Peninsula.”

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Jung Yeon-Je/Pool Photo via AP / MANILA BULLETIN)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in
(Jung Yeon-Je/Pool Photo via AP / MANILA BULLETIN)

Moon’s comments follow a spike in animosity generated by North Korea’s warning that it might send missiles into waters near the U.S. territory of Guam, and Trump’s warlike language. Both Koreas and the United States have signaled in recent days, however, a willingness to avert a deepening crisis, with each suggesting a path toward negotiations.

Trump tweeted early Wednesday that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had “made a very wise and well reasoned decision,” amid indications North Korea doesn’t immediately plan to fire multiple missiles toward Guam.
“The alternative would have been both catastrophic and unacceptable!” Trump wrote.

Next week’s start of annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises that enrage the North each year could make diplomacy even more difficult.

Moon said he believes dialogue with North Korea can happen when North Korea halts missile and nuclear tests.

Moon was elected in May after a near-decade of conservative rule that saw animosity deepen between the rival Koreas. Moon wants to engage the North. But his efforts have so far been met with a string of threats and missile tests as the North works to build nuclear-armed missiles that can reach the U.S. mainland.

“A dialogue between South and North Korea must resume. But we don’t need to be impatient,” Moon said. “I think lots of effort and time could be necessary to overcome a decade of severed ties and to reopen a dialogue.”

Moon said Washington and Seoul are closely communicating over the North Korean nuclear problem and share the view that strong sanctions and pressure are needed against Pyongyang to stop its provocations and force it into negotiations to give up its nukes. Moon said he thinks Trump’s belligerent words are intended to show a strong resolve for pressuring the North and don’t necessarily display the willingness for military strikes.

“The United States and President Trump have already promised to sufficiently consult with South Korea and get our approval for whatever option they will take against North Korea. It’s a firm agreement between South Korea and the United States,” Moon said.

 

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