South Korea’s days of appeasing its neighbor to the north are over, as South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk Yeol, said that any new talks between the two countries must be initiated by Kim Jong Un.
Yoon said, “I think the ball is in Chairman Kim’s court – it is his choice to start a dialogue with us.”
The North Korean government has recently resumed testing missiles, testing more so far in 2022 than in the past two years combined. CNN reported that Kim also recently vowed to “strengthen and develop” his country’s nuclear forces at the “highest possible” speed.
Nevertheless, Yoon said that South Korea and its allies are ready to stand against any acts of North Korean provocation.
Yoon lambasted his predecessor’s conciliatory approach to diplomacy with North Korea.
He said, “Just to escape temporarily North Korean provocation or conflict is not something that we should do. This kind of approach over the past five years has proven to be a failure.”
Yoon is a former prosecutor and a newcomer to politics. He consistently has emphasized the need for taking a stronger stance toward North Korea and expressed an ardent desire to strengthen the South’s military. Both of these approaches mark a significant departure from Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, who routinely promoted amicable dialogue with the North and advocated for a peaceful reconciliation between the two Koreas.
Despite what some may interpret as blatant hostility toward North Korea, Yoon said that he didn’t want North Korea to “collapse” but that he also did not think the South’s communist neighbor should be emboldened to continue the development of its nuclear arsenal.
He said, “What I want is shared and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula. I do not believe that enhancing [North Korea’s] nuclear capability is helpful and conducive to maintaining international peace.”
Throughout his campaign for the South Korean presidency, Yoon emphasized the importance of South Korea’s close security alliance with the U.S.
After Yoon’s recent meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, the two leaders announced in a joint statement that they would begin discussions on restarting and potentially expanding joint military drills. This move is expected to anger North Korean leadership, as Kim Jong Un is expected to perceive the renewed exercises as a direct threat to his nation’s sovereignty
Despite Yoon’s hesitance to engage in dialogue with his North Korean counterparts, Biden insisted that he would meet with Kim if he was “sincere and whether he was serious.”