South Korea Provides North Economic Benefits of Denuclearization

Seoul, South Korea — South Korean President Yun Seok-yeol on Monday offered “bold” economic aid to North Korea if it gave up its nuclear weapons program while avoiding harsh criticism of North Korea, days after it threatened “fatal” retaliation over the novel coronavirus outbreak that it blames on South Korea. .

In a speech celebrating the end of JapanDuring the colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Yoon also called for better relations with Japan, calling on the two partner countries to meet the challenges of freedom, and saying that their shared values ​​would help them overcome historical grievances associated with Japan’s brutal colonial rule before the end of World War II. secondly.

Yun’s televised address on the Liberation holiday came days after North Korea declared a widely controversial victory over COVID-19, but it has also blamed Seoul for the outbreak. North Korea insists leaflets and other things activists sent across the border are spreading the virus, an unscientific claim that Seoul calls “ridiculous.”

North Korea has a history of increasing pressure on the South when it doesn’t get what it wants from the United States, and there are concerns that the North’s threat portends a provocation, which could be a nuclear test, a major missile or even a border skirmish. Some experts say North Korea may raise tensions over joint military exercises that the United States and South Korea begin next week.

Yoon, a governor who took office in May, said North Korea’s denuclearization would be the key to peace in the region and the world. Yoon said that if North Korea stops developing its nuclear weapons and sincerely adheres to the denuclearization process, South Korea will respond with huge economic rewards that will be offered in phases.

Yun’s proposal was not significantly different from previous South Korean offers that had already been rejected by North Korea, which has been accelerating its efforts to expand its nuclear and ballistic missiles, and sees the leader of Kim Jong Un’s program as the strongest guarantee of survival.

“We will implement a large-scale program to provide food, provide assistance in setting up infrastructure for the production, transmission and distribution of electric power, and implement projects to modernize ports and airports to facilitate trade,” Yoon said.

“We will also help improve North Korea’s agricultural production, provide assistance to modernize its hospitals and medical infrastructure, and implement initiatives to allow international investment and financial support,” he added, stressing that such programs would “dramatically” improve North Korea’s life. .

Inter-Korean relations have deteriorated amid a stalemate in the larger nuclear negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang, which were derailed in early 2019 due to disagreements over the firing of crippling US-led sanctions against the North and North Korea’s disarmament steps.

North Korea ramped up its test activity in 2022, launching more than 30 ballistic missiles so far, including its first displays of ICBMs since 2017. Experts say Kim is intent on exploiting an enabling environment to push his weapons program forward, with the Security Council The international community is effectively divided and paralyzed over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

Experts say North Korea’s unusual speed with arms demonstrations also underscores its brinkmanship policy aimed at forcing Washington to accept the idea of ​​North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate ill economic benefits and security concessions from a position of strength. The US and South Korean governments have also said that North Korea is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it allegedly detonated a nuclear warhead designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles.

In the face of growing North Korean threats, Yoon pledged to bolster South Korea’s defense in conjunction with its alliance with the United States as well as strengthen security ties with Japan, which is also concerned about North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic weapons program.

South Korea’s relations with Japan have plummeted to post-war lows over the past several years as nations have allowed their grievances throughout history to spill over into other areas including commercial and military cooperation.

While Yun called for future-oriented cooperation with Japan, history may continue to be an obstacle to relations. The two countries have struggled to negotiate a solution after Japanese companies rejected South Korean court rulings in recent years to compensate South Koreans subjected to wartime industrial slavery, an issue that could cause further diplomatic rupture if it results in the forced sale of companies. local assets. Even as Yoon called for improved bilateral relations, his Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing “deep disappointment and regret” after three members of Japan’s cabinet visited to pray at the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war dead including some war criminals. The shrine is seen in South Korea as a symbol of Japanese militarism.

In the past, we had to free ourselves from the political control of the Japanese Empire and defend our freedom. Today, Japan is our partner because we face common threats that challenge the freedom of global citizens,” Yoon said. “When South Korea and Japan move toward a common future and when the mission of our time is aligned, based on our shared global values, it will also help us solve the historical problems that exist between our two countries. “

And while Washington has said it will push for additional sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, the prospects for meaningful punitive measures are unclear. China and Russia recently vetoed US-sponsored resolutions in the UN Security Council that would have increased sanctions on North Korea over its ballistic missile tests this year.

North Korea’s state media said on Monday that Kim exchanged messages with Russian President Vladimir Putin and celebrated their strengthening ties.

Kim said that relations between the two countries were strengthened by Soviet contributions to Japan’s defeat in World War II and that they had strengthened their “strategic and tactical cooperation, support and solidarity” in the face of enemies’ military threats. The official North Korean Central News Agency said that Putin said that closer relations between the two countries will help achieve stability in the region.

North Korea has repeatedly blamed the United States for the crisis in Ukraine, claiming that the West’s “politics of hegemony” justifies a Russian attack on Ukraine to protect itself.

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