Exclusive: South Korea’s new leader says age of appeasing North Korea is over
Speaking exclusively to CNN in his first media interview since taking office two weeks ago, Yoon said: “I think the ball is in Chairman Kim’s court — it is his choice to start a dialogue with us.”
From his new presidential office at the former defense building in Seoul, Yoon told CNN South Korea and its allies stand ready for any acts of North Korean provocation.
“Just to escape temporarily North Korean provocation or conflict is not something that we should do,” he said, pointing at the previous liberal administration’s conciliatory strategy. “This kind of approach over the past five years, has proven to be a failure.”
Despite his stance, Yoon said Monday he didn’t want North Korea to “collapse.”
“What I want is shared and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” he said — but added, “I do not believe that enhancing [North Korea’s] nuclear capability is helpful and conducive to maintaining international peace.”
The US, China and the Quad
So far, that hasn’t happened.
But the two men found common ground, Yoon said, showing CNN a gift received from Biden, a sign that read, “The buck stops here.” The quote is often associated with former US President Harry S. Truman. “I don’t know how (Biden) knew that I like this statement,” Yoon said, placing it in the middle of his desk.
Throughout his campaign, Yoon emphasized the importance of South Korea’s close security alliance with the US — a push that was on full display after his meeting with Biden, when the US President praised their relationship as reaching “new heights.”
On Monday, Yoon defended the move as purely defensive. Regular military training is “the basic duty of every military around the world to maintain their readiness,” he said.
He added that in the case of an attack, the US would provide assistance including missile defense and its “nuclear umbrella,” the promise of protection from a nuclear-armed state to a non-nuclear ally.
However, he ruled out the possibility of “redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on the [Korean] Peninsula.”
But South Korea could see its partnership with the US and other regional players expand in other ways.
He added that South Korea is also considering joining several working groups of the “Quad,” or Quadilateral Security Dialogue — an informal group made up of the US, Australia, India and Japan — to collaborate in areas including vaccines, climate change and emerging technology. However, he stopped short of saying the South would seek official Quad membership, saying it was something they would “continue to consider.”
For years, South Korea has tried to balance its US alliance with growing economic ties with China — but Seoul’s relations with Beijing have become strained in recent years.
Throughout his campaign, Yoon took a cooler tone than his predecessor toward China, portraying the country as an economic rival.
When asked about the risk of provoking Beijing’s fury by forging closer ties with the US, Yoon brushed off the threat of economic retaliation.
“Even if we strengthen our alliances with the United States in security and technology, it does not mean that we think our economic cooperation with China is unimportant,” he said. Besides, he added, both South Korea and China depend on their mutual cooperation — “so I do not believe it is reasonable for China to be overly sensitive about this matter.”
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: 533Soft