South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol: The era of appeasement of North Korea is over
Speaking exclusively to CNN in his first media interview since taking office two weeks ago, Yoon said, “I think the ball is in Chairman Kim’s court – it’s his choice of start a dialogue with us.”
From his new presidential office in the old defense building in Seoul, Yoon told CNN that South Korea and its allies are ready for any act of North Korean provocation.
“Just temporarily escaping North Korean provocation or conflict is not something we should be doing,” he said, pointing to the previous liberal administration’s appeasement strategy. “This kind of approach over the past five years has proven to be a failure.”
Despite his stance, Yoon said Monday he doesn’t want North Korea to “collapse.”
“What I want is shared and common prosperity on the Korean Peninsula,” he said, but added, “I don’t believe that improving [North Korea’s] nuclear capability is useful and conducive to the maintenance of international peace. »
The United States, China and the Quad
So far this has not happened.
But the two men found common ground, Yoon said, showing CNN a gift received from Biden, a sign that read, “The buck stops here.” The quote is often associated with former US President Harry S. Truman. “I don’t know how (Biden) knew I liked that statement,” Yoon said, placing it in the middle of his desk.
Throughout his campaign, Yoon has stressed the importance of South Korea’s close security alliance with the United States – a push that came into full play after his meeting with Biden, when the US president hailed their relationship as reaching “new heights”.
On Monday, Yoon defended the move as purely defensive. Regular military training is “the fundamental duty of every army in the world to maintain its state of readiness”, he said.
He added that in the event of an attack, the United States would provide assistance including missile defense and its “nuclear umbrella”, the promise of protection from a nuclear-weapon state to a non-nuclear ally.
However, he ruled out the possibility of “redeploying tactical nuclear weapons on the [Korean] Peninsula.”
But South Korea could see its partnership with the United States and other regional players develop in other ways.
He added that South Korea was also considering joining several working groups of the “Quad”, or quadrilateral dialogue on security – an informal group made up of the United States, Australia, India and Japan – to collaborate in areas such as vaccines, climate change and emerging technology. However, he stopped short of saying the South would seek formal Quad membership, saying it was something he would “continue to consider”.
For years, South Korea has has tried to balance its US alliance with growing economic ties with China – but Seoul’s relationship with Beijing has been strained in recent years.
Throughout his campaign, Yoon took a colder tone toward China than his predecessor, portraying the country as an economic rival.
Asked about the risk of provoking Beijing’s fury by forging closer ties with the United States, Yoon dismissed the threat of economic retaliation.
“Even if we are strengthening our security and technology alliances with the United States, that does not mean that we think our economic cooperation with China is unimportant,” he said. In addition, he added, South Korea and China depend on each other’s cooperation — “so I don’t think it’s reasonable for China to be too sensitive on this issue.”