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Summit proposal prompts diametrically opposed reactions

Feb 13,2018
Liberal and conservative politicians had opposite reactions Monday to North Korea’s proposal to hold an inter-Korean summit.

Leaders of the liberal ruling Democratic Party expressed enthusiastic support. “We welcome the North’s invitation to President Moon Jae-in to visit the North,” Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae said Monday. “If this leads to an inter-Korean summit, it will be the greatest accomplishment of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.”

She said Seoul must take a calm and careful approach to the invitation. “We must persuade our ally, the United States, and hold the summit with the support of the United Nations.”

Other members of the party rejected conservative demands that Pyongyang must declare its intention to give up nuclear arms as a precondition for Moon meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“It is too greedy to demand the North declare its intention of denuclearization [before the summit],” Rep. Kim Kyung-hyup, the Democratic chief negotiator for the Foreign Affairs and Unification Committee said in a radio interview Monday. “Telling the North that we will talk only after it declares denuclearization means we won’t talk. Denuclearization must be an outcome of the summit, not a precondition.”

He said there are other steps that need to be taken first, such as getting the North to agree to address the nuclear issue at the summit and a freeze or suspension of its nuclear and missile tests.

Conservative opposition parties criticized the Moon administration’s approach to North Korea’s special envoy Kim Yo-jong, younger sister of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Chairman Yoo Seong-min of the Bareun Party criticized Moon for having failed to raise the issue of North Korea’s nuclear arms even though he had four meetings with Kim during her three-day stay in the South.

“The job of the president is using maximum sanctions and pressure and holding Korea-U.S. joint military exercises immediately after the Olympics, while persuading the United States not to use a military option such as a surgical strike,” Yoo said. “It is better for him to not hold an inter-Korean summit if he has to do so without resolving the nuclear crisis.”

He said it was unacceptable that Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, accompanied Moon for one of his meetings with Kim Yo-jong. “We cannot allow the head of the national security to act as a negotiation channel with the North,” Yoo said. “Moon should make him unification minister.”

Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo of the People’s Party also criticized Moon for being steamrolled by the North, while creating a rupture in the Korea-U.S. alliance.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party said the priority should not be a summit, but the North’s denuclearization.

“Unless the summit’s precondition is the North’s denuclearization, Moon’s visit will be nothing more than a celebration of Pyongyang’s nuclear development, which is an act benefiting the enemy,” said Chang Je-won of the Liberty Korea Party.

BY HEO JIN, CHOI MI-WOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]