South Korea’s New Leader Says Age Of Appeasing North Korea Is Over

South Korea

The age of appeasing North Korea is over and any new talks between Seoul and Pyongyang must be initiated by North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, South Korea’s new conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Monday.

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.”

North Korea has launched 15 missile tests so far this year — more than in the past two years combined — and last month Kim vowed to “strengthen and develop” its nuclear forces at the “highest possible” speed.

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.

South Korea Talks About Their Conflicts

“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.”

Yoon, a former prosecutor, and newcomer to politics has consistently emphasized his tougher stance on North Korea and desire to strengthen the South’s military — a departure from predecessor Moon Jae-in, who had promoted dialogue and peaceful reconciliation.

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.”

Given North Korea’s recent surge in missile testing and resumed activity at its underground nuclear test site, regional leaders were on edge over the weekend as Yoon met with US President Joe Biden in Seoul, South Korea.

US officials had warned the North could be preparing for an underground nuclear or intercontinental ballistic missile test during Biden’s visit — his first Asia trip since taking office.

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.

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