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SKorea Pres. Vows Final Push for Talks 10/25 06:08

   

   SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea's president said Monday he'll keep 
striving to promote peace with North Korea through dialogue until the end of 
his term next May, after Pyongyang raised animosities with a resumption of 
provocative weapons tests.

   While launching a spate of newly developed weapons in recent weeks, North 
Korea has also slammed Washington and Seoul over what it calls hostility toward 
the North. Its actions indicate North Korea wants its rivals to ease economic 
sanctions against it and accept it as a legitimate nuclear state, experts say.

   In his final policy speech at parliament, President Moon Jae-in said he'll 
"make efforts to the end to help a new order for peace and prosperity on the 
Korean Peninsula be established through dialogue and diplomacy."

   Moon, a champion of greater reconciliation with North Korea, once shuttled 
between Pyongyang and Washington to help facilitate now-stalled nuclear 
diplomacy between the two countries. Pyongyang turned a cold shoulder on Moon 
after its diplomacy with Washington broke down in early 2019 amid bickering 
over the sanctions.

   Moon praised himself for paving the way for a peace process on the Korean 
Peninsula by holding three summits with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and 
helping arrange the first-ever North Korea-U.S. summit between Kim and 
then-President Donald Trump in 2018.

   But Moon acknowledged his push for peace through dialogue remains 
"incomplete."

   Moon's single five-year term ends next May, and he's barred by law from 
seeking reelection. The presidential candidate of Moon's ruling liberal party 
has unveiled a similar North Korea policy as Moon's. Surveys indicate a 
neck-and-neck race with a potential conservative candidate, who will likely 
take a harder line on the North.

   Moon's appeasement policy on North Korea has been divisive, with his 
supporters call him a peace-making mediator while his opponents accused him of 
helping North Korea find ways to weaken international pressure and perfect its 
weapons systems.

   The North Korean weapons systems tested recently are mostly short- and 
medium-range weapons that place South Korea and Japan within their striking 
ranges. Last Tuesday, North Korea fired a ballistic missile from a submarine in 
its most significant weapons test since President Joe Biden took office in 
January.

   Some experts say North Korea may test a longer-range missile that could pose 
a direct threat to the American homeland to increase its pressure on Washington 
in coming weeks.

   In part of his efforts to ease tensions, Moon has recently been pushing for 
a symbolic declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War, which ended with an 
armistice, not a peace treaty. When Moon meets Pope Francis at the Vatican this 
week during his European tour, they'll discuss a possible North Korea trip by 
Francis as the pope has repeatedly expressed hopes to visit the North, 
according to Moon's office.

   South Korea's Unification Ministry said Monday the government will make 
efforts to help realize Francis' trip to North Korea if related talks have 
progress. Spokeswoman Lee Jong-joo said a North Korea visit by the pope would 
make a big contribution to peace on the Korean Peninsula.

 
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