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'U.S. Alliance is Bedrock of S. Korea's Foreign Policy, But Seoul Can't Join Military Alliance Against China' Says S. Korean President's Special Advisor Moon Chung-in Updated: 2021-04-19 15:33:53 KST

Dr. Moon Chung-in, Chairman of the Sejong Institute, thank you so much for your time today.


I want to start with North Korea and the U.S. We know that the Biden administration is very near completion of its North Korea policy. When can we expect this policy to be announced and what's your forecast of the Biden administration's North Korea policy?

It will be reported to the principal's meeting at the White House. That might take until the end of April.
Within two to three weeks, there might be a policy review by the Biden administration.

So, what can we expect from the Biden administration's North Korea policy?

Given the nature of the Biden administration, they will likely emphasize alliance coordination.

There will be a very interesting combination of alliance, sanctions and diplomacy. The combination will depend on what kind of behavior North Korea shows.

Our government's position is how to shift from the alliance and maximum pressure to negotiated settlement of North Korean nuclear problem through diplomacy.

So the ball is in North Korean court, basically.

To a large extent, yes.

There are those who argue that the latest missiles test fired by North Korea is a message to the U.S. that they would like to come to the negotiations table recognized as a de facto nuclear state?

That won't be possible. Neither U.S. or South Korea will never recognize North Korea as a de facto nuclear state. We realize North Korea has enormous nuclear capabilities. That's a fact. But, we won't recognize North Korea as a de factor nuclear state.

Now that we expect a shift in North Korea policy from the U.S., what kind of a role can South Korea play? And, we aren't seeing any thaw in relations between the two Koreas. Why is that the case?

With President Moon's term less than a year left in office, what can South Korea do to improve inter-Korean relations?

U.S. is obviously trying to consolidate its allies in this Asian region because of the ongoing U.S., China rivalry. In this rivalry, where does South Korea stand? We're always sandwiched between Washington and Beijing. How should Seoul navigate its waters?

South Korea has taken sides with the United States because U.S. is our ally.
But, we can't take additional sides in containing China militarily.
Our government goal is to create permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula while achieving denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula.
Our government is pursuing its policy in accordance with our foreign policy goal.
In order to achieve these goals, we need close cooperation with both U.S. and China.

Dr. Moon, you said our goal is to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula including North Korea. The U.S. says its goal is to denuclearize North Korea. That was Secretary of State Tony Blinken's words.

I think it's a wrong expression.

What is the exact difference?

Because of those potential pitfalls, North Koreans aren't stupid. They won't accept it. Of course, North Korea will want the lifting of

Do you think that Beijing and Seoul could further cooperation on North Korea issues? And how so?

Who has the key to the North Korea problem? North Koreans aren't willing to talk to the U.S. government; not the South Korean government. North Koreans are talking to the Chinese government.
Therefore, China is very, very important.
President Xi Jinping said China will solve all the necessary people's lives nicely.
That means what? It means this U.S.-led sanctions on North Korea may not work.

Will that further sour China, U.S. relations?

But, China won't be violating the United Nations Security Council Resolutions.

I bring this up because like you mentioned, the 3Cs - Cooperative, Competitive, Confrontational agenda - that the U.S. is pursuing with China. Is that possible from China's perspective?

Yes and no. It depends upon how you combine.

I love the term you used to describe the relationship between U.S. and China, "frenemy." In this world of frenemies, we enter a new world of a Cold War. That's according to your new book. What kind is it?

'New Cold War': Ideology has resurfaced as a tool of diplomacy. Might have racial dimension, too.

So, how do we, as South Korea, navigate these very complex waters?

South Korea's strengthening relations with Australia, with Japan. Now, those happen to be two countries that are part of the Quad. Then, would it not be a wise decision for Seoul to join the Quad? I ask you this because there had been reports that when National Security Adviser Suh Hoon

With Japan, Do you think the Biden administration will make further efforts to improve South Korea, Japan relations?

The discharge of contaminated or treated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Will this sort of behavior only add salt to an open wound? South Korea has been raising alarm, raising complaints; it's even thinking of taking it to the International Tribunal whereas the U.S. supports it. What are your thoughts?

That kind of behavior will only continue to strengthen ties between Seoul and Beijing.

And, as we wrap up, if you have any final words of advice for the Moon Jae-in administration for the remaining time of his term.

Thank you, Moon Chung-in, Chairman of the Sejong Institute, thanks for speaking with us on a wide range of issues.

Thank you.

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