SEOUL/WASHINGTON– The leaders of South Korea and the United States have agreed to enhance Seoul’s deterrence against North Korea by increasing its missile capabilities, but also reaffirmed the need to bring the communist state back to the dialogue table, Seoul’s presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, said Saturday.
The agreement came in a telephone conversation between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump, on Friday, three days after Pyongyang staged its latest missile provocation.
“President Moon and President Trump reaffirmed their view that it was important to have North Korea come out to the dialogue table to peacefully resolve the North Korean nuclear issue by applying maximum sanctions and pressure on the North,” Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said in a press release.
North Korea fired what is believed to have been an intermediate range ballistic missile that flew over Japanese territory on Tuesday, prompting a fresh condemnation from the U.N. Security Council.
After the latest missile provocation, Trump said dialogue with the communist North was “not the answer.”
In their talks, Moon denounced the North’s latest missile launch, calling it a serious provocation that violated U.N. Security Council resolutions and raised military tension in the region, according to Park.
Trump stressed the importance of sending a strong and clear message to the reclusive North.
“The two leaders noted the need to strengthen the Republic of Korea’s defense capabilities to counter provocations and threats from North Korea, and reached an agreement in principle to revise the ‘missile guideline’ to the extent hoped by the South Korean side,” the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said.
Seoul earlier cited a need to revise the guideline between the allies to increase the maximum payload of South Korean missiles to 1 ton from the current 500 kilograms.
The two leaders also noted a need to further expand three-way cooperation with Japan to rein in North Korea’s evolving nuclear and missile capabilities.
Cheong Wa Dae earlier said the South Korean president and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will hold a bilateral summit on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, next week.
Moon and Trump will meet later in the month when the South Korean president visits New York for a session of the U.N. General Assembly, according to Park. The meeting would be the third of its kind since Moon took office in May.
Meanwhile, Moon offered his consolation for massive damage and casualties caused by Hurricane Harvey in the U.S.
Trump expressed deep gratitude, according to Park.
In a separate statement, the White House made no mention of dialogue with North Korea.
“President Trump and President Moon pledged to continue to apply strong diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea and to make all necessary preparations to deter and defend against the growing threat posed by North Korea,” it said. “The two leaders agreed to strengthen our alliance through defense cooperation and to strengthen South Korea’s defense capabilities.”
Trump also provided his “conceptual approval” of South Korea’s plan to purchase American military equipment worth billions of dollars, it added, without giving further details.
Source: Yonhap News Agency