SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 10 (UPI) — South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in said Wednesday that denuclearizing the Korean peninsula is a goal that could never be compromised or separated from the process of improving South-North relations.
Moon spoke at a New Year’s media conference a day after the two Koreas held a high-level meeting in Panmunjom for the first time in two years.
The South Korean leader noted the ongoing progress of improving inter-Korean ties, stressing that a war on the Korean peninsula cannot be repeated.
He highlighted the Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games as a chance to lead Pyongyang back to the negotiating table.
However, Moon said the South has no plans to scale back sanctions on the North to punish its nuclear and missile provocations.
If the North launches another provocation, the South will initiate a two-track policy of imposing further pressure while seeking dialogue, he said.
Moon pledged to work in “even closer cooperation” with regional partners and allies such as the United States, China and Japan in order to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis.
During his 20 minute speech, the president also addressed a controversial deal reached with Tokyo to resolve the issue of Japan’s wartime sex slavery of Korean women, dubbing the issue an ‘erroneous knot’ that must be untied.
The South Korean government on Tuesday announced that it would not seek a renegotiation of the deal, despite the various flaws unveiled by a task force review last month.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said while the pact was a promise made between the two governments, it cannot be seen as solution to the historical issue.
Moon called for a victim-centered approach, saying that the elderly women who were forced into sex slavery would forgive Japan if the Tokyo government offers them a sincere apology and works with the international community to prevent a recurrence of such an atrocity.
Touching on domestic issues, Moon called on lawmakers to pass a bill to amend the constitution to decentralize state authority, warning that the government will make a move if parliament fails to show progress.
He reiterated his position that the presidential term should be reduced from the current five years to four years.
The South Korean constitution stipulates a separation of power among the executive, legislative and judiciary for checks and balances. However, it has been largely criticized for vesting too much power in the office of the president.
Moon suggested that the Korean public vote on a constitutional revision when they go to the ballot in June for the local elections, instead of holding a separate referendum which would cost taxpayers an additional $112 million.
Also, in his speech, the leader pledged his commitment to achieving “people-centered” economic growth.
He outlined his pledges to create more jobs, improve employment conditions for workers while reducing work hours as well as pursuing sources of innovative growth, such as building 2,000 smart factories in the country.
The president also promised to promote fair competition, ironing out structural inefficiencies and corporate cronyism.
The live media event at the presidential office was Moon’s second press conference to date, after his first session in August last year which marked his 100th day in office.