President Moon Jae-in and the leaders of four major political parties have agreed on the principle of a peaceful resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue. They also decided to set up a consultative body involving government officials and the ruling and opposition parties to discuss security and other state affairs.
The presidential office said the president and party leaders adopted a joint statement to that effect after their meeting at the top office on Wednesday. It’s the first time since March 2015 that a joint statement was adopted after a meeting between the president and party chiefs.
In the statement, they strongly condemned North Korea over its nuclear and missile provocations and agreed that a war on the Korean Peninsula can never be accepted. The five-point statement also pledged efforts to faithfully carry out UN Security Council sanctions against Pyongyang and strengthen the South Korea-U.S. alliance.
During the meeting, the president also expressed regret over controversy surrounding his personnel appointments, saying the government will release detailed guidelines after his Cabinet is finalized.
Regarding criticism of conflict among Moon’s security and defense officials, the president said he would take action if the security team continues to create confusion. But he added it’s very natural for ministries to have different views on ways to deal with North Korea.
The president also dismissed speculation that the government is investigating alleged irregularities of previous administrations for political revenge.
Attending the Wednesday meeting were Democratic Party chairwoman Choo Mi-ae, People's Party chairman Ahn Cheol-soo, Bareun Party’s acting chief Joo Ho-young and Justice Party chairwoman Lee Jung-mi.
Hong Joon-pyo, chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, boycotted the meeting, saying such a gathering was a mere "political show."
After the meeting, Moon and the party heads visited the National Security Council’s crisis management center and were briefed on the security status. The visit was not originally scheduled but suggested by the president on the spot.
The president’s meeting with the party leaders is meaningful in that it could serve as a stepping stone toward “cooperative politics” championed by the Moon administration.
However, it’s difficult to say this one event is cause for optimism. For one, the main opposition leader did not attend. With a large opposition presence in parliament, it’s unlikely that state affairs will proceed smoothly without opposition cooperation.
The presidential office and the ruling party must be aware of this fact and do their best to cooperate with the opposition bloc, including all out efforts to persuade the conservative Liberty Korea Party.
The opposition camp should also warm up to being more cooperative.