The new president of South Korea offers the North economic development in exchange for denuclearization | International


South Korea already has a new president, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol. The former attorney general and successor to progressive Moon Jae-in has begun his five-year non-renewable term with an offer to an increasingly aggressive North Korea. Seoul will be open to dialogue and to developing its neighbor’s precarious economy if Pyongyang agrees to ditch its nuclear program.

In his inaugural speech, Yoon has tried to combine the call for dialogue —in the line that characterized his predecessor in office— with his electoral promises of harshness towards the Kim Jong-un regime. “If North Korea suspends its nuclear development and turns toward substantial denuclearization, I will work with the international community to put together a bold plan that radically improves the economy and the lives of the North Korean people,” she announced.

The new head of state comes to power with a series of important challenges in the international arena that range from the complicated relations with its neighbors Japan and China to threats from Pyongyang, which this year has resumed its strategy of frequent ballistic missile tests. including intercontinental missiles. In addition, Western analysts fear that North Korea is preparing a new nuclear test, the seventh in its history, in the coming weeks. This weekend the Kim regime fired a new submarine rocket.

The North Korean nuclear program, Yoon assured, “represents a threat not only to our security and to that of Northeast Asia.” The former attorney general appointed president of South Korea is scheduled to receive US President Joe Biden next week in Seoul, in a visit in which the development of the North’s atomic and ballistic arsenal will be one of the most important issues to be discussed. .

Yoon’s offer is similar to what other governments have already made. His conservative predecessor in office, Lee Myung-bak, also offered the carrot of economic development in exchange for the North abandoning its nuclear whims. Moon himself, who met Kim three times during his tenure — twice in the demilitarized zone (DMZ) and once in Pyongyang — used that argument to try to persuade the supreme leader.

The key to the survival of the regime

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In Singapore in June 2018, at the first summit between a North Korean leader and an American president, the then White House tenant, Donald Trump, even showed the Marshal a specially prepared video that promised the conversion of the North Korean economy. North, heavily affected by international sanctions, in a core of development and prosperity in Northeast Asia. But the North Korean leader, although he has allowed himself to be loved in a more or less clear way on each of those occasions, has never taken very far those proposals that have been proposed to him. He has always prioritized his nuclear development, which he considers the key to the regime’s survival, over any other consideration. At a military parade on April 25, while his armed forces displayed their intercontinental missiles, Kim Jong-un, dressed in full military uniform, promised to develop the nuclear weapons program “as fast as possible.”

The South Korean Yoon has also pointed to a rapprochement with Tokyo – something that usually happens during conservative mandates – and his intention to strengthen relations with the US, without confronting China, which is Seoul’s main trading partner. In significant silence, the new president avoided mentioning THAAD, the US-made anti-missile shield whose installation on South Korean soil triggered an unofficial trade boycott by China in 2017.

In a sign of the importance that both neighbors attach to the changeover that took place this Tuesday in Seoul, China sent its vice president, Wang Qishan, and Japan, Foreign Minister Yoshimasha Hayashi, to the inauguration ceremony.

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