South Korea offers North ‘audacious’ economic benefits for denuclearization

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol on Monday offered North Korea “brave” financial aid if it gave up its nuclear weapons program, avoiding harsh criticism after threatening “deadly” retaliation over the outbreak of the Covid-19. He blames the South.

In a speech celebrating the end of Japan’s colonization of the Korean Peninsula, Yoon called for better relations with Japan, calling the two countries partners in overcoming challenges to independence and saying their shared values ​​would help them overcome historical grievances related to Japan’s brutal colonial rule. Before the end of World War II.

Yoon’s televised speech on the liberation holiday came a few days later North Korea claimed a widely disputed victory Seoul was also blamed for the outbreak on COVID-19. The North insists that leaflets and other items flown by activists across the border spread the virus, an unscientific claim described by Seoul as “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 Korean threat represents a provocation, which could be a nuclear or major missile test or even a border skirmish. Some experts say the North could raise tensions around joint military exercises between the United States and South Korea next week.

The conservative Yoon, who took office in May, said North Korea’s denuclearization would be key to peace in the region and the world. If North Korea stops developing nuclear weapons and truly commits to the process of disarmament, South Korea will respond with large financial rewards that will be provided in phases, Yoon said.

Yoon’s proposal was not meaningfully different from an earlier South Korean offer that has already been rejected by North Korea, which is accelerating its efforts to expand its nuclear arsenal and sees the leader of its ballistic missile program, Kim Jong Un, as the strongest guarantee of its existence.

“We will implement large-scale programs to provide food, provide assistance to build infrastructure for power generation, transmission and distribution, and implement projects to modernize ports and airports to facilitate trade,” Yun said.

“We will help improve North Korea’s agricultural production, help modernize its hospitals and medical infrastructure, and launch initiatives for international investment and financial assistance,” he added, insisting that such programs would “significantly” improve life in North Korea. .

Inter-Korean relations have soured amid a standoff in major nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang, which derailed in early 2019 over disagreements between the North and the North in exchange for US-led sanctions relief for denuclearization steps.

North Korea has launched more than 30 ballistic missiles in 2022, including the first demonstration of an intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. Experts say Kim intends to take advantage of the favorable environment to push forward his weapons program. The UN Security Council is divided and effectively paralyzed over Russia’s war on Ukraine.

North Korea’s unusually fast pace of nuclear weapons demonstrations also underscores a move aimed at forcing Washington to embrace the idea of ​​North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate bad economic benefits and security concessions from a position of strength, experts say. The US and South Korean governments have also said the North is ready to conduct its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a nuclear warhead designed for its ICBM.

In the face of growing threats from North Korea, Yun has pledged to strengthen South Korea’s defenses with an alliance with the United States and strengthen security ties with Japan, which is alarmed by the North’s nuclear and ballistic weapons programs.

South Korea’s relations with Japan have sunk to post-war lows in recent years as the countries allowed their historic grievances to extend to other areas, including trade and military cooperation.

While Yun has called for future-oriented cooperation with Japan, history may hinder ties. The countries have struggled to negotiate a settlement after South Korean court rulings in recent years defied Japanese companies to compensate South Koreans subjected to wartime industrial slavery, which could lead to further diplomatic fallout if the companies are forced to sell. local property.

“In the past, we had to detach ourselves from the political control of Imperial Japan and protect our independence. Today, Japan is our partner as we face common threats that challenge the freedoms of global citizens,” Yoon said. “When South Korea and Japan move toward a shared future, and when the goals of our time are aligned based on our shared universal values, it will also help us resolve the historical issues between our two countries.”

Washington has said it would impose additional sanctions if North Korea conducts another nuclear test, but the prospect of meaningful punitive measures remains unclear. China and Russia recently vetoed US-sponsored resolutions at the UN Security Council that would have increased sanctions on the North over ballistic missile tests this year.

North Korean state media said on Monday that Kim exchanged messages with Russian President Vladimir Putin and celebrated their strong ties.

Kim said the countries’ ties had been forged by the Soviet contribution to Japan’s defeat in World War II, and that they were strengthening their “strategic and strategic cooperation and support and unity” in the face of the enemy’s military threats. Putin said closer ties between the countries would help bring stability to the region, according to North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency.

North Korea has repeatedly blamed the United States for the crisis in Ukraine, claiming that the West’s “hegemonic policy” supports Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to protect itself.

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