The ruling Scoria candidate takes a softer stance in the North

South Korea’s ruling party’s presidential candidate said Thursday he would pursue a conciliatory approach toward North Korea if elected and questioned the effectiveness of US-led economic sanctions in pressuring North Korea to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

The remarks by Lee Jae-myung, who represents President Moon Jae-in’s Liberal Democratic Party, came as North Korea and the US nuclear negotiations remain frozen over the issue of easing the crippling US-led sanctions in exchange for moves by the North. Korea ends its nuclear weapons program.

Lee is running a tight race in the March elections with conservative candidate Yoon Seok-yeol, who has pledged a tougher stance toward North Korea and promised to pursue stronger military cooperation with Washington and Tokyo to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat.

In a meeting with foreign media, Lee stressed that South Korea should play a leading role in dealing with North Korea, reflecting concerns in Seoul that it is increasingly losing its voice in international efforts to resolve the nuclear crisis.

Lee expressed his desire to be an “active mediator” between US President Joe Biden and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to help them reach an agreement based on conditional sanctions relief and “phased and simultaneous actions” by North Korea to reduce its nuclear and missile weapons.

“When we ask whether the tough stance (against North Korea) based on sanctions and pressure actually led to the results the Western world was aiming for, I can’t say that is 100% the case,” Lee said.

“Going forward, we will be making judgments about whether a softer approach would be more effective or whether a tougher approach would be more effective depending on how the situation evolves. But given the current situation, I think softer policies have been more effective than more effective ones. strictness”.

Moon took a similar stance as he helped set up the first summit between Kim and former US President Donald Trump in 2018. At the meeting in Singapore, Trump and Kim vowed to improve relations and issued ambitious goals for a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula without description. when or how it will happen.

But the talks were derailed after their next meeting collapsed in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demand for significant sanctions relief in exchange for a partial waiver of its nuclear capabilities.

Since then, Kim has vowed to bolster his nuclear deterrence capacity in response to what he portrays as hostility to the United States, and has ramped up nuclear weapons tests that threaten US allies South Korea and Japan.

His government also suspended all forms of cooperation with South Korea while expressing anger over South Korea’s joint military exercises with the United States and its unwillingness to defy sanctions to resume inter-Korean economic projects.

Kim’s hard line has raised doubts about whether he will give up an arsenal that he clearly sees as the biggest guarantee of survival. While the Biden administration has offered open talks with North Korea, it has shown no willingness to ease sanctions unless North Korea takes concrete steps toward denuclearization.

Lee said it will be important for Seoul and Washington to rebuild trust with North Korea so that diplomacy can be fruitful. He also urged North Korea to uphold the inter-Korean peace agreements reached in 2018 and expressed regret that North Korea in 2020 blew up an empty inter-Korean liaison office near its border with the South.

From the faraway US perspective, the Korean Peninsula issue is only one part of its global military and security strategy. But for the 80 million Koreans who live here, it’s a matter of life or death and our entire future,” Lee said.

Lee said he would like to improve relations with Japan, the former colonial power, which plummeted to post-World War II lows in recent years due to disagreements over trade and war history.

Japan has expressed outrage over South Korean court rulings that ordered Japanese companies to compensate Koreans forced into forced labor during the war. The countries are also stuck in a decades-long stalemate over Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the wartime Japanese military.

Lee said he would maintain a two-track approach – cooperating with Tokyo on security and economic issues, but responding firmly to issues surrounding history and territorial disputes.

Recent polls favor Yun over Lee slightly amid mounting public frustration with Moon’s struggles to deal with a deteriorating job market, soaring home prices and record household debt.

Moon has also been accused of reneging on his promise to curb the excesses of the chaebol, the family-owned conglomerates in South Korea, and end their relations with politicians. In August, Moon’s justice minister released billionaire Samsung Lee Jae-young on parole after serving 18 months in prison for his role in a massive corruption scandal that sparked nationwide protests and led to the ouster of Moon’s conservative predecessor.

Lee Jae-myung, the presidential candidate, has promised a tougher approach to white-collar crime, but declined to answer when asked if he would also release Samsung’s vice president had he been president.

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