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Diplomatic dilemma for Moon

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By Choi Sung-jin

President Moon Jae-in seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place in dealing with North Korea.

In his New Year's address Jan. 7, Moon made no mention of the North's denuclearization, inviting criticism from conservative politicians and media outlets. He did not stress the need to beef up military preparedness, a regular message in South Korean leader's year-opening speech. Instead, the liberal president dwelled on the importance of inter-Korean exchanges and cooperation. He even insinuated that he might risk alienating the United States to that end.

North Korea sent something akin to a reply four days later ― though not in a pleasant way. Signed by Kim Kye-gwan, the North's former chief nuclear envoy, Pyongyang's statement was designed to repudiate the U.S. calls for reopening working-level talks unless Washington accepts all of its preconditions.

Like adding a fifth wheel, Kim then ridiculed Moon's office for announcing the delivery of Donald Trump's congratulatory message to the North's Kim Jong-un while making light of Seoul's role as a mediator between Washington and Pyongyang. "South Korea, not even a member of the core U.S. allies, were as frivolous as to convey the greeting of the U.S. president. It seems as if the South still had hope for playing the role of go-between in DPRK-U.S. relations," Kim said. The North sent a clear message that they believe it is presumptuous for the South to meddle in the personal relationship between Chairman Kim Jong-un and President........

© The Korea Times