According to Moon Jae-in | Kim Jong-un was ‘very honest’ in his denuclearization offer

(Seoul) North Korean leader Kim Jong-un was “very honest” and sincere when he offered in past talks to give up nuclear weapons in exchange for guarantees of survival for his regime, says former South Korean President Moon Jae-in in his memoirs.


Posted at 6:05 a.m.

Kang Jin-kyu

France Media Agency

Mr. Moon’s term as leader of South Korea, from 2017 to 2022, was marked by a rapprochement between the two Koreas and by two historic summits between Kim Jong-un and the American president at the time, Donald Trump.

In his autobiography entitled “From the periphery to the center”, published Friday in South Korea, the former head of state provides numerous details on his exchanges with Kim Jong-un during this period, and on the negotiations aimed at obtain a denuclearization of North Korea in exchange for a lifting of the sanctions hitting this country.

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PHOTO ANTHONY WALLACE, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The autobiography titled From the periphery to the centerpublished Friday in South Korea by former South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

“Kim said he would give up nuclear weapons if there was a guarantee of regime survival,” Mr. Moon wrote, adding that he found the North Korean leader “very honest.”

Kim’s reasoning, he said, was: “I have a daughter and I don’t want her generation to live with nuclear weapons.” […] Why should we continue to live in difficulty, under sanctions, with nuclear weapons if our security can be guaranteed? »

Kim was, however, “well aware of the distrust of the international community and the fact that the United States was convinced that the North was lying,” adds the former president.

Mr. Moon says the North Korean leader specifically asked him how to “make Washington believe in our sincerity.”

Trump “wanted to accept”

This improvement was cut short after the failure of the second Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi in 2019. Since then, North Korea has declared its status as a nuclear power “irreversible”, described as the “main enemy” of South Korea, with which any reunification was impossible, and increased missile tests and threats of war.

Pyongyang has also moved closer to Moscow, apparently to supply weapons to Russian forces for their war in Ukraine in exchange for Russian space technology, in violation of sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

Despite the turn of events, Mr. Moon wrote in his memoirs that he still believed Kim was sincere in his denuclearization plans, but that this depended heavily on the compensation that the United States would offer.

MM. Kim and Trump failed to reach a deal because Washington demanded complete denuclearization before even considering sanctions relief, Moon said.

“In retrospect, I regret that (South Korea) did not play a more effective mediating role by listening to the North’s requests and transmitting them to Washington if we considered them reasonable,” confides the former president.

According to him, Donald Trump was disappointed that the Hanoi summit had collapsed, because he “wanted to accept” the North Korean proposals “but his then security adviser John Bolton vigorously opposed them”.

The American president asked his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a second opinion but he was on the same line as Mr. Bolton, leaving him no other choice but to leave the negotiating table, continues Moon Jae-in .

Many experts, as well as former North Korean officials who defected to the South, believe that Kim never intended to give up nuclear weapons, which he considers the main pillar of the survival of his diet.

For Hong Min, a senior analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul, five years later it is impossible to take Kim Jong-un’s words at face value.

“It is possible that he was sincere, but also that he tried to manipulate” Mr. Moon, believes this expert, who recognizes however that “what is clear is that Kim tried to change the status quo by expressing its intention to denuclearize”.

In 2022, Moon Jae-in was replaced as president by Yoon Suk-yeol, a conservative who favors toughness with the North.

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