When Moon Jae In and Donald Trump met at the United Nations on Monday, South Korea’s president hailed his American counterpart for helping guide nuclear talks, employing the superlative language that Trump adores, stating, “You are, indeed, the only person who can solve this problem,” Moon said of Trump.
A first step, President Moon stated, would be a declaration to end the Korean War, which halted in an armistice in 1953. It would encourage North Korea to make additional moves toward giving up its nuclear weapons, such as shutting down its infamous Yongbyon nuclear complex, he argued.
Perhaps most notably, Moon declared that the “two Koreas” were in the midst of pursuing an end-of-war declaration, in what seemed like a pointed message from the conductor that the peace train was chugging ahead and the United States would be wise to hop on board. (Many of Trump’s advisers, if not Trump himself, worry that such a declaration is premature and potentially perilous for U.S. security interests.)
Moon acknowledged that there is ample reason to be skeptical about North Korea’s intentions. “We have had many agreements on denuclearization with North Korea in the past, but unfortunately they have all collapsed,” he said. “It’s only natural that we have plenty of suspicion regarding the true motives of the North Korean regime.”
But then he earnestly made the case for overcoming that skepticism. Moon said the North Korean leader is aware of the criticisms that he is only engaging in nuclear diplomacy to “deceive people” and “buy time,” but has responded that he has nothing to gain from doing so. “If he was indeed trying to deceive the United States, then he was very clear that he would be facing almighty consequences and great retaliation from the United States, which North Korea would not be able to withstand,” Moon said. “This is why he’s asking for the international community to trust his sincerity.”
Moon described Kim as “young,” “candid,” and someone who “respects elders” and “seems to have great aspirations to achieve economic development.”