South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that he would be willing to meet with the North’s leader Kim Jong Un, a day after delegations from the two sides met for the first time in two years.
“I’m open to any form of meeting, including a summit under right conditions,” Moon told a press conference. “Having said that, the purpose of it shouldn’t be talks for the sake of talks.”
North Korea agreed on Tuesday to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South next month after the two sides met at Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ).
Multiple North Korean nuclear and ballistic missile tests had ratcheted up tensions in the region, with the United States not ruling out military action and the international community imposing further sanctions on Pyongyang.
“It is only the beginning,” Moon said of Tuesday’s talks. “Yesterday was the first step and I think we had a good start.”
“Bringing North Korea to talks for denuclearization is the next step we must take,” he said.
The two Koreas on Tuesday also agreed to conduct military talks in a bid to reduce tensions and reopen a military hotline that was cut in 2016 amid a spike in tensions.
Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons
Moon thanks Trump
Moon has long claimed to support engagement with North Korea, but Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests forced Seoul to lean on Washington to muster international pressure on the North.
Some in Washington have expressed concern that Kim is trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea. But Moon said “we have no difference in opinion with the US.”
The South Korean leader also thanked US President Donald Trump for paving the way for the talks.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks,” Moon said. “It could be a resulting work of the US-led sanctions and pressure.”
Trump himself has taken credit for the North-South talks, even as in the past he has commented that he believed diplomacy would be fruitless.
“If I weren’t involved, they wouldn’t be talking about the Olympics right now, they’d be doing no talking,” Trump said over the weekend.
Moon said that the aim of sanctions was to bring North Korea to the negotiating table, but that “stronger sanctions and pressures could further heighten tensions and lead to accidental armed conflicts.”
“But thankfully, North Korea came to dialogue before tensions were heightened further,” he said.
cw/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)