Seoul, May 10 (EFE).- In a departure from his hawkish remarks, South Korea’s new president, Yoon Suk-yeol, Tuesday said the door to peace talks with the North was open for a peaceful solution to the Korean conflict.
“While North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs are a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door to dialog will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” Yoon said in his inauguration address.
“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearization, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea’s economy and improve the quality of life for its people,” he said.
Yoon said that the denuclearization would greatly contribute to bringing about “lasting peace and prosperity” in the peninsula.
In his election campaign, the conservative leader had advocated harsh sanctions on North Korea and supported the development of military technology that would be capable of preemptive strikes on Pyongyang.
Yoon had criticized his predecessor Moon Jae-in’s rapprochement policy toward North Korea as a “complete failure.”
Tensions have spiked on the peninsular after North Korea conducted as many as 15 weapons tests this year. These include the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
Experts say North Korea is most likely to carry out its first nuclear test since 2017 this month.
In his address, Yoon also touched upon the need to boost domestic growth to address social divisions and conflicts.
“Our society is plagued by division and social conflict which is threatening our freedom and our liberal democratic order,” said the new president, who defeated his liberal rival, Lee Jae-myung, in the Mar.9 elections by just 247,000 votes (0.07 percent of the total).
“I do not believe we can overcome this problem without first achieving rapid and sustainable growth,” he said.
Yoon greeted those present at the ceremony before taking the rostrum to take the presidential oath and deliver his inaugural address.
Then came the handshake with the outgoing president, the liberal Moon, ousted ex-president Park Geun-hye, and foreign representatives, including Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and the United States Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.
Yoon, who will lead South Korea until 2027, said rapid growth “will only be possible through science, technology and innovation.”
Economic growth in South Korea has slowed down.
The International Monetary Fund has cut the country’s growth forecast for this year by half a point to 2.5 percent in an inflationary context caused by the impact of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. EFE