In an interview with The Washington Post published Tuesday, the South Korean leader emphasized commonalities with Trump, who has called for an end to the era of “strategic patience” and a tougher approach to Pyongyang in the wake of missile provocations.
The statement from Moon appeared to be addressing rising concerns in Washington the new South Korean administration could be at odds with the United States on critical issues like THAAD deployment, strategies in dealing with Kim Jong Un or even the future of the U.S.-South Korea alliance.
Moon did say given the right conditions, he believes it would be a “good idea” to go to Pyongyang and meet Kim, much like his left-leaning predecessor Roh Moo-hyun, who met with Kim’s father Kim Jong Il in October 2007.
“President Trump also mentioned that under the right conditions, he is willing to engage in dialogue with North Korea,” Moon said, adding neither the Obama administration nor Park Geun-hye made any effort to improve the relationship with Pyongyang.
That means a more proactive approach is needed, Moon said, which should mean a “larger and more leading role” for South Korea, but one that does not rule out putting maximum pressure on North Korea in collaboration with the United States.
“As long as North Korea continues its provocations, I believe that we will have no choice but to apply additional and strong pressure on it,” Moon said. “At the same time, it is also important to send out a message to North Korea that if it decides to denuclearize and to come to the negotiating table, then we are willing to assist them.”
North Korea has shown no interest in giving up nuclear weapons development, and Kim has increased the share of military activities in the first half of 2017, according to a Yonhap news analysis.
The South Korean news agency reported Pyongyang’s state news agency KCNA reported 51 public activities involving Kim Jong Un, and 21 of those activities were related to the military.
Kim has steadily reduced public appearances since 2013, according to the report.