Moon urges incoming administration to make efforts to resume dialogue with N. Korea

SEOUL-- Outgoing President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday the government of incoming President Yoon Suk-yeol should work with the United States to restart talks with North Korea, voicing concern over Pyongyang's continued testing of weapons, including an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Moon, who is set to leave office on May 9, made the remarks during a JTBC TV interview broadcast after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to bolster the country's nuclear arsenal while showcasing a "giant" intercontinental ballistic missile during a military parade held Monday.

"An ICBM was launched, and this crossed a red line," Moon said, referring to the North's successful test-firing of a Hwasong-17 ICBM last month. "This may be a sign that (North Korea) would end dialogue. It is still unclear whether this will lead to a complete break in dialogue."

Moon said the incoming Yoon administration should make efforts to restore dialogue with North Korea in close cooperation with the U.S. He also urged the North to return to the dialogue table at an early date.

"I hope North Korea will make a rational choice," he said.

The North's ICBM launch represented the scrapping of the country's self-imposed moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests that the country declared in 2018 amid brisk Seoul-brokered diplomacy that led to the first-ever summit between the U.S. and the North in Singapore in June of the same year.

Moon's administration had touted the moratorium as a key product of its peace initiative. However, North Korea has stayed away from denuclearization talks since the second summit between Kim and Trump in Hanoi in 2019 ended without a deal.

Moon dismissed calls for South Korea's nuclear armament as an "absurd claim," saying it could undermine an alliance with the U.S. and trigger a nuclear arms race in Northeast Asia.

During the interview, Moon voiced concerns about Yoon's plan to relocate the presidential office, reiterating his stance that a hurried relocation could leave a "security vacuum."

The new presidential office will be set up inside what is now the defense ministry building in line with Yoon's campaign promise to move the presidential office out of Cheong Wa Dae to help him connect better with the people.

"Personally, I don't think it is appropriate," Moon said, adding relocating the defense ministry building at a time when tensions have risen over North Korea's weapons testing is "dangerous."

Source: Yonhap News Agency