Korean candidate takes a hard line on NKorea’s nuclear program

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South Korea’s main opposition presidential candidate said Friday he would strengthen military cooperation with the United States Other Japan if elected to better address North Korea s nuclear threat and would strive to make the North a top foreign policy priority for the United States

Yoon Suk Yeol has conducted public opinion polls since becoming the candidate of the main conservative opposition party last week for next March’s elections to choose the successor of the current Liberal president Moon Jae-in

He is expected, however, to eventually face an extremely tight race against ruling party candidate Lee Jae-myung.

Meeting with foreign media on Friday, Yoon stressed the need to strengthen cooperation with Washington and Japan to compensate for South Korea’s relative lack of ability to monitor the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program.

“At a time when North Korea rejects denuclearization, strengthens its nuclear weapons and continues provocative missile tests, it is accepted as an obvious fact that we must improve our sharing of reconnaissance and intelligence resources and military cooperation” with states United and Japan, Yoon said. .

South Korea and Japan are both key allies of the United States in East Asia and are home to a total of approximately 80,000 American troops. But their trialogue cooperation has been tested in recent years throughout history and the trade disputes between Seoul and Tokyo stemming largely from the Japanese colonization of the Korean Peninsula in 1910-45. Moon’s government once threatened to end a trilateral intelligence-sharing agreement amid disputes with Japan.

Stressing the need to improve ties with Tokyo, Yoon accused the Moon government of using tensions with Japan for internal political gain. He said foreign policy should be implemented with pragmatism that prioritizes national interests over other issues.

Policies to pursue North Korea’s denuclearization will likely be a major issue in the March 9 election, after Moon’s pacification approach failed to persuade the North to abandon its nuclear program, although it led to one mood of temporary conciliation between rivals.

Lee said he will follow a similar approach to Moon’s and seek exemptions from international sanctions against North Korea to allow the resumption of dormant joint cooperation projects. Yoon accused Moon of neglecting North Korean threats and said he will seek a stronger US defense commitment to neutralize the North’s nuclear and missile threats.

Nuclear diplomacy between the US and North Korea has largely stalled since early 2019. North Korea is not a top priority for President Joe Biden, who faces China and Russia challenges and growing issues internal.

Yoon said he will encourage the Biden administration to make North Korea a top priority. To do this, he said he will push hard for North Korea’s denuclearization and present a concrete roadmap to achieve it.

Yoon’s stance could attract an angry response from North Korea, which has called former conservative South Korean governments the US puppets and avoided serious negotiations with them over its nuclear program.

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