SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea's new liberal president said he's willing to meet North Korean leader Kim Jong Un amid heightened animosities in the wake of the North's first intercontinental ballistic missile test-launch.
During a speech Thursday ahead of the Group of 20 summit in Germany, President Moon Jae-in also proposed the two Koreas resume reunions of families separated by war, stop hostile activities along their heavily fortified border and cooperate on the 2018 Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Moon's statement reiterated his push to use both dialogue and pressure to try to resolve the standoff over North Korea's weapons programs. But it's unclear that North Korea would accept any of Moon's overtures as South Korea is working with the United States and others to get the country punished for the ICBM launch Tuesday.
President Donald Trump said Thursday he's considering unspecified "pretty severe things" in response to the North's ICBM launch. A pre-emptive military strike may be among Trump's responses, but analysts say it's one of the unlikeliest options the U.S. can take because North Korean retaliations would cause massive casualties in South Korea, particularly in Seoul, which is within easy range of North Korea's artillery.
"The current situation where there is no contact between the relevant officials of the South and the North is highly dangerous," Moon said. "I am ready to meet with Chairman Kim Jong Un of North Korea at any time at any place, if the conditions are met and if it will provide an opportunity to transform the tension and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula."
Moon said he and Kim could put all issues on the negotiating table including the North's nuclear program and the signing of a peace treaty to officially end the 1950-53 Korean War. An armistice that ended the war has yet to be completed with a peace treaty, leaving the Korean Peninsula in a technical state of war.
Since taking office in May, Moon has been trying to improve ties with North Korea, but his efforts have produced little, with the North testing a series of newly developed missiles including an ICBM.
"I hope that North Korea will not cross the bridge of no return," Moon said in Thursday's speech. "Whether it will come out to the forum for dialogue, or whether it will kick away this opportunity of dialogue that has been made with difficulty is only a decision that North Korea can make."
The North's ICBM launch, its most successful missile test to date, has stoked security worries in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo as it showed the country could eventually perfect a reliable nuclear missile capable of reaching anywhere in the United States. Analysts say the missile tested Tuesday could reach Alaska if launched at a normal trajectory.
After the launch, Kim said he would never put his weapons programs up for negotiation unless the United States abandons its hostile policy toward his country. Kim's statement suggested he will order more missile and nuclear tests until North Korea develops a functioning ICBM that can place the entire U.S. within its striking distance.
In a show of force against North Korea, South Korea and the United States staged "deep strike" precision missile firing drills on Wednesday. In North Korea's capital, thousands of people rallied Thursday in Kim Il Sung square to celebrate the launch.