Seoul, South Korea ( Associated Press) — South Korea’s late liberal president defended his policy of engaging North Korea in his farewell speech on Monday, saying he expects peace and denuclearization efforts on the Korean peninsula to continue.
Moon Jae-in stepped down on Tuesday after a five-year term, handing the presidential power and responsibilities to conservative Eun Suk Yeol, who accused him of being a “subordinate” of North Korea and tough on the North’s nuclear Promised to take a stand. Program,
“Peace is a condition of our existence and prosperity. I sincerely hope that efforts to resume dialogue between South and North Korea and to establish nuclear disarmament and peace will continue,” Moon said in a nationally televised speech.
When Moon – a dove who favors greater rapprochement between rival Korea – took office in 2017, he found little room to maneuver diplomatically because of North Korea’s brisk run of nuclear and missile tests. But he eventually seized an opportunity to reconcile with North Korea when its leader, Kim Jong Un, suddenly arrived in Seoul and Washington in early 2018 for talks on the future of his nuclear arsenal.
Kim first sent his powerful sister to South Korea to hold talks with Moon and attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics In South Korea in February 2018. The two Korean leaders met three times for a summit later in 2018, taking steps to ease tensions at the border and allow for rare exchange events involving singers, basketball teams and others. Moon also lobbied hard to broker the now-stalled nuclear diplomacy between Kim and then-US President Donald Trump.
But after North Korea-US diplomacy collapsed in 2019, Moon faced criticism that his engagement policy allowed North Korea to buy time and scale up its weapons program in the face of US-led sanctions and pressure campaigns on the North. helped to impress.
Pyongyang eventually urged Moon not to interfere in his dealings with the United States and lashed out at him.
In his last speech, Moon claimed that his government had helped reduce the threat of war on the Korean peninsula and fostered hope for peace through diplomacy.
“The reason we failed to move forward was not because we lacked the efforts and determination to do so. There was an obstacle that we simply cannot overcome with our determination. This is an obstacle that we must overcome,” said Moon, without clarifying what the obstacle was.
Last month, Moon and Kim exchanged their last official letters Expressed hope for improvement in bilateral relations. But some experts say that the way North Korea described the letters, which highlighted Moon’s pledge to continue campaigning for Korean reunification even after he stepped down, split public opinion in South Korea. and reflects its intention to discourage Seoul’s new government from taking a hard line. Pyongyang.
During a massive military parade in Pyongyang three days after the letter exchange was announced, Kim pledged to accelerate the development of its nuclear weapons and threatened to use provocation actively. Kim’s military has also been test-launching in recent months. a group of missiles aimed at South Korea, Japan, or mainland America
Some experts say Kim aims to sabotage Yun’s incoming government by modernizing his weapons arsenal and easing sanctions on the Biden administration. South Korean officials say North Korea is also preparing for its first nuclear test since 2017.
Associated Press writer Kim Tong-hyung contributed to this report.