At denuclearization negotiations involving North Korea showing signs of resuming, South Korean President Moon Jae-in's recent remark that the North's dismantlement of its Yongbyon complex would mean an entry into an "irreversible stage" of denuclearization has sent ripples in the diplomatic communities in Seoul and Washington.
The White House immediately expressed concern over the remark, while the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae is trying to patch things up. In a written interview with South Korean and international news agencies on Wednesday, Moon said, "If all of the nuclear facilities in the complex, including the plutonium reprocessing facilities and the uranium enrichment facilities, are completely demolished and verified, it would be possible to say that the denuclearization of North Korea has entered an irreversible stage."
According to a diplomatic source in Washington, White House officials expressed discomfort over President Moon's remarks, saying they "do not agree." Regarding the president's remarks on inter-Korean economic cooperation, including the proposed resumption of the Kaesong Industrial Complex, they were quoted as saying that the U.S. officials have "no change" in their position without substantial progress in the North's denuclearization. Christopher Hill, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said in an interview with the Voice of America on Wednesday (local time) that the dismantlement of the Yongbyon facilities cannot be called an abandonment of the nuclear program. The U.S. is showing such reactions, as Washington and Pyongyang have yet to reach a complete agreement on the final goal of denuclearization.
A day after President Moon's remarks, Cheong Wa Dae explained to reporters that the dismantling of the Yongbyon facilities is the "entrance to an irreversible stage to move toward complete denuclearization,” adding that the Yongbyon complex denuclearization doesn’t mean the complete denuclearization of North Korea.
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