South Korean President Moon Jae-in says any US military action against North Korea must be taken with Seoul’s prior consent, adding that the United States has agreed to consult South Korea before taking any military measure on the Korean Peninsula.
“I am saying any military action to be taken on the Korean Peninsula requires South Korea’s consent unless it is taken outside the peninsula,” Moon said in the capital, Seoul, on Thursday.
He suggested, though, that action taken outside the peninsula but affecting South Korea would also have to be “sufficiently” discussed with Seoul in advance.
“Even if the United States takes military action outside the peninsula, I am confident it will sufficiently consult with South Korea in advance if such action may increase tension between the South and the North,” Moon said.
The South Korean president, who was speaking at a press conference marking 100 days since he took office, said the US had agreed to consult his government.
“The United States and President Donald Trump, too, have agreed to discuss any options it may take [against North Korea] with South Korea regardless of what kind of options it takes,” he said.
Moon’s remarks came just two days after he made similarly unusual comments directed at the US in a nationally televised speech.
“Only the Republic of Korea can make the decision for military action on the Korean Peninsula,” he said, days after Trump threatened North Korea with American “fire and fury.”
On August 8, Trump threatened that the US would unleash on North Korea “fire, fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.” The North in response threatened that it was finalizing plans to launch four missiles into the waters near the US Pacific island of Guam, where some 7,000 military personnel live among the other over 160,000 US citizens.
On Tuesday, however, North Korea reversed that decision, saying that it had “postponed” the plan to an unspecified future time.
Trump on Wednesday seemed to be praising North Korean leader Kim Jong-un for that “very wise and well reasoned” decision. He also said that the alternative could have been “catastrophic and unacceptable.”
Despite their potentially explosive nature, Moon’s earlier comments as well as his more recent ones conditioning US action on South Korea’s consent seemed not to have gotten on the White House’s radar — or Trump’s nerves. The US president has in the past reacted harshly to statements that seem to undermine his authority publicly.
Elsewhere in his Thursday remarks, Moon said he was certain there would be no war on the Korean Peninsula again.
“I will prevent war at all costs. So I want all South Koreans to believe with confidence that there will be no war,” he said.
He said his people had worked hard to rebuild South Korea from the ruins of the 1950-53 Korean War. “We cannot lose everything again because of a war.”
Tensions over North Korea escalated in July, when Pyongyang twice successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of targeting the US mainland, vowing to test fire more.
South Korea sets a red line
Moon also touched on the issue of the North’s ICBMs in his Thursday presser, saying he viewed Pyongyang to be crossing a red line if it put a nuclear warhead on an ICBM.
“I would consider that North Korea is crossing a red line if it launches an intercontinental ballistic missile again and weaponizes it by putting a nuclear warhead on top of the missile,” he said.
But the South Korean president also said he would consider dispatching a special envoy to Pyongyang if the North stopped “provocations.”
North Korea is under mounting international pressure over its missile and military nuclear programs and has been subjected to an array of United Nations sanctions. But it says it needs to continue and develop the programs as a deterrent against hostility by the US and its regional allies.