President Yoon says any talks with North Korea should be more than 'show': South Korea | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

President Yoon says any talks with North Korea should be more than 'show': South Korea

Agencies | Seoul

The Daily Tribune –

Talks with North Korea should not be for political show but should contribute to the establishment of peace, explained South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol on Wednesday, speaking at a wide-ranging press conference to mark his first 100 days in office.

Yoon repeated his willingness to provide phased economic aid to North Korea, if it ended nuclear weapons development and began denuclearisation, pointing out that he had called for a dialogue with Pyongyang since his campaign.

"Any dialogue between the leaders of the South and North, or negotiations between main working-level officials, should not be a political show, but should contribute to establishing substantive peace on the Korean peninsula and in Northeast Asia," he said.

The comments were an apparent criticism of a series of summits involving his predecessor Moon Jae In, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and then-US President Donald Trump.

Despite those meetings, denuclearisation talks stalled in 2019, and North Korea had said that it would not trade away its self-defence, though it had called for an end to sanctions. It has also been observed preparing for a possible nuclear test, which would be its first since 2017.

South Korea was not in a position to guarantee the North's security if it gave up its nuclear weapons, but Seoul did not want a forced change in the status quo in the North, Yoon said.

The North's recent missile tests and nuclear development has revived debate over whether the South should pursue its own nuclear weapons. Yoon said that he was committed to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), and was working with the United States to boost its "extended deterrence" for South Korea.

"The NPT should not be abandoned and I will adhere to that until the end," he added. 

Labour strife

Facing falling poll numbers and controversies over his picks for top ministers, Yoon was pressed by the media on a range of issues, including labour reform, housing shortages, and recovery from recent floods.

Since Yoon came to office in May, two strikes have cost various industries more than $1.6 billion, according to labour ministry and shipbuilder estimates, although neither involved a government suppression before ending.

The president said he would always allow time for dialogue and compromise before suppressing an illegal strike.

He called for ending discrepancies between "workers who do the same job", such as direct hires and contract workers, without elaborating on how.

 Ukraine aid

He also touted major weapons sales including a deal last month with NATO-member Poland, involving more than 1,600 tanks and howitzers, and nearly 50 fighter jets.

However, he declined to say whether his government would change its policy of not directly providing lethal aid to Ukraine.

"While it's difficult to elaborate here on the issue of supplying military support, we will help the Ukrainian people recover freedom and rebuild the destroyed national assets swiftly," Yoon said.

According to Yoon, historical disputes with Japan — dating back to its colonial occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910-1945 — could be overcome, and as such, the two countries needed to cooperate more closely on supply chain and economic security.