Park Says She’s Ready to Meet Kim Jong Un Without ConditionsSam Kim
South Korean President Park Geun Hye said she is willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and the country’s nuclear weapons program wouldn’t be an obstacle to holding the first Korean summit since 2007.
“There are no preconditions,” including nuclear disarmament, for a summit between the two countries, Park said today at a televised news conference, warning Kim should drop his nuclear pursuit in order to achieve an eventual unification.
Park also urged the North Korean leader to agree to resume the reunions of families that remain separated more than 60 years after the end of the civil war that left the peninsula divided.
Relations on the Korean peninsula have been complicated by North Korea’s push to develop nuclear weapons and its threats to use them against the South. In recent months there have been some signs of easing tensions. In October, North Korea sent three members of Kim’s inner circle to meet with Park’s chief security adviser. That led to the first talks between their military generals since 2007.
“Park tried not to anger the North, refraining from mentioning its human rights problems and poor living conditions or criticizing the regime directly,” Yang Moo Jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, said by phone. “At the same time, she isn’t offering a fresh alternative that could allow the South to take the lead in improving relations.”
Park said her efforts for dialog with North Korea won’t be affected by a new round of U.S. sanctions imposed on the country early this month. President Barack Obama’s executive order was in response to the November cyber attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment.
The FBI has accused North Korea of carrying out the attack to try to block the release of the film “The Interview,” which satirizes Kim by envisioning a plot to assassinate him. North Korea has denied being behind the hacking of Sony.
“I think the measure taken by the U.S. over North Korea’s Sony hacking was an appropriate response,” Park said. “We seek to resolve current issues through talks with North Korea under our own principles, while the U.S. had no choice but to take such a measure after suffering such a situation.”
Park said she knows what the movie is about even though she hasn’t watched it.
North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency said Jan. 10 that the country could suspend further nuclear tests if the U.S. stopped joint military exercises in South Korea. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki called the offer “inappropriate,” saying in an e-mailed statement that another test would be a violation of the North’s obligations under United Nations Security Council resolutions and a 2005 agreement as part of six-nation disarmament talks.
South Korea has said the North must end its pursuit of nuclear arms and acknowledge it attacked the South’s Cheonan warship that sank in 2010, among other concessions, before it can resume large-scale economic assistance seen under former President Roh Moo Hyun. Roh participated in the last summit when he met Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang in October 2007, a year after the North conducted its first nuclear test.
Park has repeatedly called on Kim to embrace her idea of building a joint peace park inside the demilitarized zone since taking office in February 2013. Last year she started a government campaign to prepare for unification, saying that it could be an economic “bonanza” for both nations, even as a declining number of South Koreans view it as necessary.
Park also said she is open to a summit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe if it could produce “meaningful” progress in the relations between the two neighbors.
Park has refused to meet separately with Abe until he does more to atone for Japan’s wartime past and particularly address the issue of “comfort women,” the name given to those forced to serve in Japanese military brothels during World War II.
“Because the victims are so old, this issue may become forever unresolved if no solution is provided soon,” she said. “That would make it a heavy historical burden not only for the Korea-Japan relations but also for Japan.”