May 23, 2022

South Korea’s Yoon calls on North to trade nukes for aid

Yoon, 61,takes office at a time of high tensions on the peninsula, with Pyongyang conducting a record 15 weapons tests since January

South Korea’s new leader Yoon Suk-yeol on Tuesday called on the North to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for massive economic aid, describing Pyongyang’s missiles as a threat to regional and global security.

Yoon, 61, who started work in an underground bunker with a briefing on North Korea, takes office at a time of high tensions on the peninsula, with Pyongyang conducting a record 15 weapons tests since January, including two launches last week.

The former prosecutor, who won the election by a razor-thin margin in March, said in his inaugural speech that he would consider sending transformative levels of economic aid to the North — but only if Pyongyang first gives up its nuclear weapons.

“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearisation, 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’s predecessor Moon Jae-in pursued a policy of engagement with Pyongyang, brokering summits between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and then US president Donald Trump. But talks collapsed in 2019 and diplomacy has stalled since.

“While North Korea’s nuclear weapon programs are a threat not only to our security and that of Northeast Asia, the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” Yoon added.

But the offer of “audacious” aid is a dud, analysts say: North Korea, which invests a vast chunk of its GDP into its weapons programs, has long made it clear it will not make that trade.

“Since 2009, North Korea has stated it will not give up its nukes for economic incentives,” Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University, told AFP.
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“Yoon’s comment will only trigger Pyongyang, who will see it as an attack.”

Kim does not want massive economic growth because achieving this would require opening up North Korea’s information ecosystem, said Chad O’Carroll of Seoul-based specialist site NK News.

“Ideological pollution would rapidly steep in, a key risk for Pyongyang’s ruler… Yoon’s denuclearisation plans won’t go anywhere… because the ‘carrot’ is actually poisonous,” he wrote on Twitter.