President Moon Jae-in of South Korea has a message for the United States: President Biden needs to engage now with North Korea.
In an interview with The New York Times, Mr. Moon pushed the American leader to kick start negotiations with the government of Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea, after two years in which diplomatic progress stalled, even reversed. Denuclearization, the South Korean president said, was a “matter of survival” for his country.
He also urged the United States to cooperate with China on North Korea and other issues of global concern, including climate change. The deteriorating relations between the superpowers, he said, could undermine any negotiations over denuclearization.
It was part plea, part sales pitch from Mr. Moon, who sat down with The Times as the United States tries to rebuild its relationships in the region with an eye to countering China’s influence, and North Korea builds up its nuclear arsenal. Mr. Moon, who is set to meet with Mr. Biden next month in Washington, appeared ready to step once again into the role of mediator between the two sides.
In the interview, Mr. Moon was proud of his deft diplomatic maneuvering in 2018, when he steered the two unpredictable leaders of North Korea and the United States to meet in person. He was also pragmatic, tacitly acknowledging that his work to achieve denuclearization and peace on the Korean Peninsula has since unraveled.
President Donald J. Trump left office without removing a single North Korean nuclear warhead. Mr. Kim has resumed weapons tests.
“He beat around the bush and failed to pull it through,” Mr. Moon said of Mr. Trump’s efforts on North Korea.
Mr. Biden has started reversing many of his predecessor’s foreign policy decisions. But Mr. Moon warned that it would be a mistake to kill the 2018 Singapore agreement between Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim that set out broad goals for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.
“I believe that if we build on what President Trump has left, we will see this effort come to fruition under Biden’s leadership,” he said.