South Korea’s president, Moon Jae-in, has credited Donald Trump for creating the political backdrop to this week’s inter-Korea talks, and echoed the US president’s warning that Pyongyang faced more pressure if it continued to conduct missile and nuclear tests.
Speaking a day after senior North and South Korean officials met for the first time in more than two years, Moon suggested that US-led pressure on North Korea over the past year had helped bring the two sides together.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, and I want to show my gratitude,” he told reporters in Seoul. “It could be the result of US-led sanctions and pressure.”
Trump had already claimed credit for facilitating the talks – which focused on North Korea’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics – saying at the weekend: “If I weren’t involved, they wouldn’t be talking about the Olympics right now, they’d be doing no talking.”
Moon’s praise for Trump is being seen as an attempt to ease US concerns that the recent thaw in cross-border ties could drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington.
On Tuesday, North Korea agreed to send a large delegation to the Games, which open in Pyeongchang on 9 February. The two sides also agreed to hold military talks in an attempt to prevent an accidental conflict on the peninsula.
While Moon has been more open to the idea of engagement than either of his two conservative predecessors, he said Seoul and Washington shared a common aim: the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula.
“This initial round of talks is for the improvement of relations between North and South Korea,” he said. “Our task going forward is to draw North Korea to talks aimed at the denuclearisation of the North. That is our basic stance, and that will never be given up.”