South Korea’s new leader, Yoon Suk-yeol, yesterday 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 Korean 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 denuclearization, 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.
“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.
However, the offer of “audacious” aid is a dud, analysts have said, as North Korea, which invests a vast chunk of its GDP into weapons, has long made it clear that it will not make such a trade.
The inauguration was held at Seoul’s National Assembly, with marching bands, soldiers in ceremonial dress and a 21-gun salute.
US President Joe Biden sent a high-profile delegation headed by Douglas Emhoff, husband of US Vice President Kamala Harris.
Japan and China also sent high-level representatives, with Yoon saying he wanted to mend sometimes fractious relations with regional powers.
“At a time when the rules-based international order is under threat, the strategic collaboration between Japan and South Korea ... is needed more than ever,” Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi said after attending the inauguration.
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