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Yoon opposes forceful change to status quo in North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives a speech during an event in Pyongyang in July to mark the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953,<strong></strong> July 27. Yonhap
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives a speech during an event in Pyongyang in July to mark the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, July 27. Yonhap

Pyongyang fires two cruise missiles before press conference, a day after preliminary joint ROK-US drill

By Kang Seung-woo

President Yoon Suk-yeol said, Wednesday, that South Korea will not pursue any efforts for regime change or any other intervention that can alter the current political system of North Korea, adding that Seoul is not in a position to guarantee Pyongyang's security.

The president also ruled out the possibility of South Korea acquiring its own nuclear weapons against evolving North Korean nuclear threats, saying the country is committed to the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

He made the remarks during a press conference held to mark the 100th day of his presidency.

"Guaranteeing the security of the North Korean regime is not something that South Korea can provide," Yoon told reporters. "But neither I nor the government wants the status quo changed unreasonably or by force in North Korea."

During his speech on National Liberation Day, Monday, Yoon unveiled his North Korea initiative, what he calls his "audacious plan," which comes down to improving Pyongyang's economy through large-scale economic incentives and technical support programs if the reclusive state takes steps toward denuclearization.

"The most important thing is to build sustainable peace between South and North Korea and if North Korea naturally changes as a result of our economic and diplomatic support, we can only welcome the change," Yoon added.

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Since his inauguration in May, North Korea has ratcheted up tensions on the Korean Peninsula by staging military provocations with a series of missile launches. Plus, the South Korean and U.S. intelligence authorities believe that another nuclear test by the Kim Jong-un regime is imminent.

Hours ahead of the press conference, North Korea fired two cruise missiles, according to the South Korean Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an apparent protest against the preliminary combined drill between South Korea and the United States ahead of the Ulchi Freedom Shield, a joint exercise suspended in 2017 that has been reinstated starting Aug. 22. This year's edition plans to feature expanded military drills in accordance with the agreement between U.S. President Joe Biden and Yoon in May.

Yoon, a strong critic of the Moon Jae-in administration's North Korea policy, which he believes has placed inter-Korean ties into a "master-servant relationship" and weakened South Korea's national security, admitted that it was necessary to have inter-Korean talks, but added that such dialogue should not be a "political show," but be beneficial to the establishment of peace on the peninsula and in Northeast Asia.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un gives a speech during an event in Pyongyang in July to mark the armistice that ended the Korean War in 1953, July 27. Yonhap
President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in Seoul, Wednesday. Yonhap

In response to his North Korea policy, some say it is similar to the Lee Myung-bak administration's unproductive "Vision 3000," under which South Korea pledged to help the North achieve a $3,000 (3.9 million won) per capita gross domestic product in line with its denuclearization steps.

However, Yoon rejected the criticism, saying that his plan does not mean that North Korea must completely denuclearize before South Korea offers economic support.

"If North Korea shows strong will to denuclearize, we will do what we can do to help them, which I think is different from in the past," Yoon said.

"Only if we propose an agenda first can we wait for the other side's response, and only then will it be possible to have meaningful meetings or talks necessary for the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

Amid growing North Korean nuclear threats, there are some voices here that South Korea should pursue nuclear armament to handle the challenge.

As for the issue, the President dismissed them, saying he believes the "Non-Proliferation Treaty regime is an important and essential premise for lasting world peace."

"That is why, under all circumstances, I plan to think of building more effective and stronger extended deterrence as a priority task," he added.




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