Moon departs for US to seek Biden’s cooperation on North Korea

Seoul, May 19 (EFE).- South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday set off for the United States for a five-day visit that includes a meeting with US President Joe Biden, as Seoul seeks better coordination with Washington on the North Korean issue.

After arriving in the US capital, Moon will begin his official itinerary on Thursday with a visit to the Arlington cemetery and meeting the speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.

He will meet Biden on Friday and is also scheduled to hold a meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris.

One of the main items on the presidential summit’s agenda is set to be the new strategy recently outlined by the White House to negotiate with North Korea and the need for Washington and Seoul to align their positions in this regard.

The Biden administration seems to be moving away from his predecessor Donald Trump’s “all or nothing” approach and aiming to find a middle path where diplomatic dialog can be continued in phases, reviving negotiations that have remained stuck since the 2019 Hanoi summit.

At the time, the US had refused to lift sanctions against North Korea, considering Pyongyang’s disarmament proposal insufficient as it excluded key facilities of their nuclear program.

Moon, who has less than an year left in his presidency – as South Korea does not allow more than a term in office – recently stressed his commitment to achieving peace in the Korean peninsula before his tenure ends.

The major point of possible disagreement between the two sides could be the Biden administration’s insistence on denouncing repeated and severe human rights abuse by the North Korean regime.

For Seoul, the priority remains reestablishing dialog and ensuring lasting peace, with the current liberal government even enacting a law to prevent activists from sending balloons – carrying propaganda against the North Korean regime – across the border.

The discussion could also feature overtures by Biden to invite South Korea to join hands with the Quad regional security forum – which consists of Japan, Australia, US and India – although this is a delicate issue for Seoul, which maintains close trade and diplomatic ties with China.

The two presidents are also set to discuss vaccines, as Moon has said he’ll seek to strengthen cooperation with Washington in the area and boost the project of turning South Korea into a vaccine production hub.

Due to the lack of global supplies, South Korea has so far managed to fully vaccinate just 2 percent of its target population, while 7.3 percent have received at least one dose.

Seoul has proposed a swap agreement to Washington, where it could receive US vaccines and return them later after local firms sign agreements to produce them domestically. The US is yet to respond to the offer.

Before departing for Seoul on Sunday, Moon – a practicing Catholic – is set to attend a ceremony honoring veterans of the Korean War (1950-1953), and meet the Archbishop of Washington Wilton Gregory. EFE


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