By the Associated Press
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean President Moon Jae-in plans to offer new proposals for inter-Korean engagement following the high-stakes nuclear summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Moon’s office said the announcement is planned for a ceremony on Friday marking the 100th anniversary of a 1919 uprising by Koreans against Japan’s colonial rule and will likely include plans for economic cooperation between the rival Koreas.
Moon, who has prioritized improving relations with the North, is desperate for a breakthrough in nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang so he can continue his ambitious drive for inter-Korean engagement. He has driven the three-way diplomacy but is held back by tough U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
Moon’s office said he expects to speak with Trump on the phone Thursday after Trump’s meeting with Kim in Hanoi, Vietnam.
In a meeting with senior aides on Monday, Moon expressed hope on the material progress of the North’s nuclear disarmament and the easing of the sanctions, which would allow further space for inter-Korean cooperation, including joint economic projects.
Moon earlier told Trump in a phone conversation that the South was ready to proceed with inter-Korean economic projects to induce further nuclear disarmament steps from the North.
At their third summit in North Korea’s capital last September, Moon and Kim agreed to normalize operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North’s Diamond Mountain resort when possible. They voiced optimism that international sanctions could end and allow such projects.
The Koreas in past months have also discussed ambitious plans to reconnect their railways and roads.
“If the North Korean economy opens up, neighboring countries, international organizations and global capital will join in its development,” Moon said in the meeting with aides, describing Seoul as the “main stakeholder” in issues on the Korean Peninsula. “In this process, we should not lose our initiative. We are the masters of the destiny of the Korean Peninsula.”
Moon wants the Trump-Kim meeting to be followed by his fourth summit with Kim, preferably in the bustling South Korean capital of Seoul. It would be a hard sell for many South Koreans without tangible progress on ridding the North of its nukes, and Kim may be reluctant to travel to South Korea without something big to bring home.
Moon’s enthusiasm for inter-Korean engagement has caused disagreements with ally Washington, which sees economic pressure as its main leverage with Pyongyang. Seoul last year walked back a proposal to lift some of its unilateral sanctions against North Korea after Trump’s bluntly retorted Seoul could “do nothing” without Washington’s approval.