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Seoul, Washington see eye-to-eye: Blue House

Oct 23,2018
A high-level Blue House official denied accusations that Seoul is at loggerheads with Washington over easing of sanctions on Pyongyang, saying Monday that both countries were “eventually heading towards the same path” albeit through a “slightly different” process.

The remark was made by an aide to South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who spoke to Blue House correspondents in a background briefing on the condition of anonymity.

The briefing was held to discuss Moon’s nine-day, four-nation tour around Europe, which ended Sunday as the Blue House chief returned back home.

The tour - with stops in France, Italy, Belgium and Denmark - was meant to rally support for Moon’s North Korean engagement policy and ask world leaders to ease sanctions on the North once the regime took irreversible steps to denuclearize.

Critics claim Moon only widened a rift between the United States, which has been pressing the international community to enforce sanctions more rigorously until North Korea achieves final, fully verified denuclearization, often coined as FFVD.

“There are diverse opinions even within the United States [on how to proceed],” said the Blue House official, who added that Washington “trusts” Seoul because the two share the same goal of North Korean denuclearization.

Asked whether France and Britain were reflecting the view of the United States when their leaders stressed complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the North after meeting with Moon last week, the Blue House official answered, “Yes. Even China does so, too.”

On South-North relations, the aide said progress on improving ties was being made at an “enormous speed,” up to the point that it could be considered “actually strange.”

Moon, however, was said to view the whole situation with optimism. Whenever his aides worry things might founder between the two Koreas, Moon would say, “Don’t worry,” according to the source.

“I think the president has confidence that we’re heading in the right direction, even though it may require some time,” said the source.

Washington and Pyongyang are in the process of deciding a venue for their second summit, and so far, have narrowed it down to three or four locations, said the official, without specifying where they are.

“U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo managed to reach many agreements [with the North] during his fourth visit to the country, so I think it’s about time [U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un] meet.”

Moon’s aide was positive about the prospects of having Kim visit Seoul for a fourth summit with Moon by the end of this year, though follow-up talks on the matter have yet to be held.

“I still think it’s possible,” said the official. Asked if a delay in the second U.S.-North summit could delay Kim’s visit to Seoul, the Blue House official said, “Wait and see.”

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, WIE MOON-HEE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]