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(2nd LD) Moon notes need for maximum pressure on N. Korea in talks with Trump

2017/08/07 12:05

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(ATTN: UPDATES with additional details, more information from 14th para)

SEOUL, Aug. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Monday stressed the need for maximum pressure on North Korea to induce it to change its behavior and choose the "right path," an official from Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae said.

"President Moon and President Trump shared concerns over North Korea's evolving nuclear capabilities, and agreed their countries must put maximum pressure and sanctions on North Korea under cooperation with the international community to have North Korea give up its nuclear and missile programs, and choose the right path," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Park Soo-hyun said of a telephone conversation between the two leaders held early Monday (Seoul time).

The talks came one day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted a new sanctions resolution against the communist North, condemning the North's launch of claimed intercontinental ballistic missiles on July 4 and July 28.

"Just completed call with President Moon of South Korea. Very happy and impressed with 15-0 United Nations vote on North Korea sanctions," Trump tweeted earlier.

Moon hailed the UNSC resolution, noting it has also been supported and endorsed by China and Russia, both close allies of Pyongyang.

"President Moon said he hoped the new resolution will be a chance to induce a change in North Korea's behavior," Park told a press briefing.

In a released statement, the White House said the two leaders affirmed that "North Korea poses a grave and growing direct threat to the United States, South Korea and Japan, as well as to most countries around the world."

   "The leaders committed to fully implement all relevant resolutions and to urge the international community to do so as well," it added.

The South Korean leader also stressed the need to further enhance the joint defense capabilities of South Korean and U.S. troops stationed here.

To this end, he asked the U.S. president to support a Seoul-proposed revision to the countries' bilateral agreement on ballistic missiles, according to Park.

Under the allies' ballistic missile guideline, South Korea is currently prohibited from developing ballistic missiles with a range of over 800 kilometers and a payload of over 500 kilograms.

South Korea seeks to raise the cap on payloads to 1,000 kg.

"President Trump expressed his position to actively support the move," the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said.

Moon, however, insisted the objective of putting new and stronger sanctions on North Korea must be to bring the reclusive state back to the dialogue table.

"He especially stressed that they must ultimately resolve the North Korean nuclear issue peacefully and through diplomatic means based on close cooperation between South Korea and the United States as they can never again allow a tragic war to break out on the Korean Peninsula," the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman said.

During their 56-minute conversation, Trump expressed interest in Seoul's recent offer for Pyongyang to hold inter-Korean dialogue, according to Park.

The South Korean president explained the talks -- military and Red Cross talks -- are aimed at reducing military tension between the divided Koreas and discussing humanitarian issues, such as reunions for families separated by the division of the two Koreas.

North Korea had remained largely silent over the proposed meetings until this week when its foreign minister claimed Seoul's proposal lacked sincerity in a meeting with his South Korean counterpart in a meeting held on the sidelines of an Asian security forum in Manila, the Philippines.

Turning to trade issues, the U.S. president reiterated the need to revise the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement (FTA), saying the bilateral trade pact was causing an enormous trade deficit for his country, according to Park.

While insisting the free trade deal was mutually beneficial, the South Korean president said the countries must work to further improve the agreement to make it more mutually beneficial, the spokesman said.

Washington has already called for a special meeting of a joint committee to discuss "possible amendments and modifications" to the Korea-U.S. FTA.

Seoul has noted the FTA required such a meeting to be held within 30 days following a request from either side, but that it may take a bit longer to allow time for its newly appointed trade minister to prepare.

Moon's latest talks with Trump ended with his renewed invitation for the U.S. leader to visit South Korea before the year's end or during the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games to be held here in February 2018, according to Park.

Trump said he hoped to return Moon's visit to Washington in June at the earliest date possible.