Moon, party leaders vow joint efforts for N. Korea issue
By Kang Ji-Hyun
President Moon Jae-in and the heads of four major political parties agreed on joint efforts to cope with North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, Wednesday.
They also decided to set up a regular consultative body in which government officials and members of the ruling and opposition parties can discuss security and other state affairs.
The agreement came after the President and the party leaders discussed security and diplomacy issues for more than two hours in a meeting over dinner at Cheong Wa Dae. It was the third time for Moon to host leaders of the ruling and opposition parties.
The participants were ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae, People’s Party Chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, Bareun Party floor leader and acting chief Joo Ho-young, and Justice Party Chairwoman Lee Jung-mi. Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, boycotted the meeting, saying such a gathering was a mere “political show.”
Moon and the party leaders agreed that lawmakers’ bipartisan efforts were important in relieving tension surrounding the Korean Peninsula and that the government would support such efforts actively.
“A war on the peninsula can never be accepted, and we reconfirmed the principle to resolve security issues, including North Korea’s nuclear threat, through peaceful means,” they said in a joint statement announced by spokespeople of the parties and Cheong Wa Dae.
“We urge the North to stop provocations. We will also make efforts to carry out the U.N. Security Council’s sanctions against Pyongyang faithfully, strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance, and intensify deterrence against the North.”
As part of such efforts, they also agreed to form the three-way consultative body as soon as possible.
Moon said the North Korea issue is threatening peace and the people’s security, and is also feared to affect the economy as well. “This is a time when bipartisan measures are needed,” he said. “In this heightened tension, if the ruling and opposition parties and the government make joint efforts for security, it will relieve public concern and ensure economic growth.”
While agreeing on the need to resolve the North Korea issue and keep peace here, leaders of the opposition parties showed mixed opinions on how to do that.
Ahn and Lee urged Moon to replace top officials in charge of diplomacy and security, meaning related ministers and Cheong Wa Dae officials, saying they have often showed misunderstanding and made mistakes.
“While the strong South Korea-U.S. alliance is needed, people are worried about cracks in cooperation between Seoul and Washington. Moreover, the internal confusion among security officials is making the situation worse,” Ahn said.
Lee suggested Moon send a special envoy to Pyongyang. “As North Korea is crossing the red line and risking a war, a special envoy will provide momentum to change the situation,” she said.
Joo of the minor conservative party was critical of the Moon government’s stance to seek dialogue with North Korea. He said the U.S. may not provide extended deterrence to South Korea if the North completes its development of nuclear warheads and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can attack the U.S. mainland.
“If the North has nuclear armament and is able to attack the U.S. , we have to build multi-layered defense network to protect our own security. Then we can seek dialogue. Without defense, dialogue is useless,” he said.
Other discussion issues included ways to boost bipartisan cooperation to better deal with pending bills at the National Assembly and a revision of the Constitution.
After the meeting, Moon ushered them into the National Security Council’s risk control center, which is often called the “underground bunker of Cheong Wa Dae,” in an unplanned move. National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong gave them a detailed briefing on the security situation surrounding the peninsula.