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Blue House irritated by wording in CBS interview report

June 22,2017
Seoul will consult Washington when it engages Pyongyang, but it does not need approval from the United States, the Blue House said Wednesday.

“Resumption of dialogue with North Korea needs to be pushed forward in close cooperation and consultation with the United States,” said Kwun Hyuk-ki, head of the Blue House press center. “But we don’t need approval from the United States.”

The comment was in response to an interview the U.S. network CBS had with President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday, aired with a series of reports featuring the latest developments in Korea-U.S. relations, North Korea and other security issues ahead of Moon’s summit with U.S. President Donald Trump next week.

During the interview on “CBS This Morning” with co-host Norah O’Donnell, Moon said he believes pursuing dialogue with the North is not at odds with the policy of the United States or that of Trump.

“But it’s not clear that, even under President Trump, that he will agree to allow you to negotiate with the North Koreans without any preconditions,” O’Donnell said, “and you want to do that. You want to start a dialogue without any concessions by the North Koreans. Aren’t you giving in to them?”

“I have never mentioned dialogue with no preconditions whatsoever,” Moon responded, “I believe that first we must aim for a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. And then, as a second phase, try to achieve the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program. And I believe there are voices supporting such a step-by-step approach even within the United States.”

While some Blue House officials insisted that the word “allow” should not be interpreted in the context of U.S. permission, CBS concluded its report by saying, “President Moon believes he is going to get the green light from President Trump to have these bilateral talks with North Korea, to begin this inter-Korean dialogue.”

“The president must have been offended by the question,” one Korean netizen said. “But he still managed well.”

The CBS report also misinterpreted Moon’s remarks regarding his plan to talk to the North.

“Moon said he hopes he will be able to meet with Kim Jong-un ‘before the end of the year’ if the conditions ‘become right’ for dialogue,” the report said. But Moon did not specify whether such talks would include the North Korean leader, although he did say he does hope to have dialogue with North Korea before the end of the year.

“You have promised to sit knee-to-knee, head-to-head, with the North Korean dictator. Can you go to Pyongyang this year? Can you meet with him this year?” O’Donnell asked at one point. “I certainly hope that the conditions could become right for such dialogue before the end of the year,” Moon said. “And just because we believe that dialogue is necessary does not mean that we have to be impatient for dialogue. And so, what I hope to achieve by the end of this year is to draw North Korea out to the table for negotiation through the implementation of various and strong sanctions and pressure.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]