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FOREIGN MINISTER'S INTERVIEW WITH CBS (3. 18.)
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Foreign Minster's interview with CBS (March 18th)
[MARGARET BRENNAN] It’s been ten days since President Trump accepted North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s invitation to meet, but there’s still been no public response from North Korea... Have you heard anything from North Korea in response?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, nothing publicly. But there is a channel of communication now established. So I'm sure there are back and forth messages. But I think the North Korean leader would also need some time, given the readiness with which President Trump has accepted the invitation to talks. I think we were all quite surprised by the readiness of that decision. I think it was an extremely courageous decision on the part of President Trump. We believe the North Korean leader is now taking stock. We give them the benefit of the doubt, and the time that he would need to come out with some public messaging.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] So, you were surprised President Trump accepted so quickly? Do you think Kim Jong Un was surprised?
[Foreign Minister Kang] I think we all were.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] Your President Moon has plans already to meet with Kim Jong Un next month. What does South Korea hope to achieve from that conversation?
[Foreign Minister Kang] This is, of course, also a very historic engagement and the North Korean leader is coming just south of the DMZ for the third inter-Korean summit. The two previous ones were held in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. So, the indication that he is willing to come south for this is very significant in itself.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] In the talks between North and South Korea, will the nuclear program even be a topic? Or are you saving that for President Trump?
[Foreign Minister Kang] No, we're not saving that for..., I think, President Trump. I think this is a concern not just for the United States but for South Korea as well. But I think we will want to discuss key security issues including the denuclearization issue.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] What conditions do the North Koreans have to meet before this conversation happens?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, in effect, they already have. We have asked the North to indicate in clear terms the commitment to denuclearization, and he has, in fact, conveyed that commitment.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] He's given his word?
[Foreign Minister Kang] He's given his word. But the significance of his word is quite weighty in the sense that this is the first time that the words came directly from the North Korean supreme leader himself, and that has never been done before.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] The idea of a North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, meeting with an American president caught a lot of people by surprise. What is the significance of that to South Korea?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, it clearly demonstrates the President Trump's will... determination to resolve this issue once and for all. And, I think that's hugely appreciated by the South Korean public. The previous years before the administration has been one of non-action, called "strategic patience". What has changed is the maximum pressure campaign, which is a series of Security Council sanctions but also U.S. unilateral sanctions. North Korea is in a situation of very limited ability to engage economically with the outside world, which means it has very limited ways of improving the livelihood of the people.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] You're describing a weak North Korea financially...
[Foreign Minister Kang] Economically, definitely.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] But they've never been this militarily strong when it comes to the development of their nuclear program. They've never come this close to being able to hit the U.S. mainland with a weapon before. So, they're actually walking into these talks in a strong position in some ways.
[Foreign Minister Kang] But I think that's probably what goes into the North Korean calculation of coming out to dialogue at this point. But again, it's strength on the side of its nuclear missiles program. On the side of the economy, very, very weak and increasingly so. The art of diplomacy and negotiation is... what this boils down to...
[MARGARET BRENNAN] What is South Korea, and what is the U.S., its partner, willing to offer North Korea at this negotiation?
[Foreign Minister Kang] At this point, we haven't offered it anything. We have made it clear that we will engage, but there will be no reward for dialogue.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] Does South Korea trust Kim Jong Un?
[Foreign Minister Kang] As I say, it's not a matter of trusting. It's a matter of discussing, and pressing for action. And once you see those actions, then you move forward further.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] When President Trump says things like he did reportedly at this political event earlier this week when he suggested U.S. troops could be removed because of a trade dispute, how were those comments received in South Korea?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, anytime troops are mentioned, it raises eyebrows. So, yes, it has caught attention, but we are absolutely confident of the American commitment to the alliance and the troop presence in our country.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] So, you don't take comments like that seriously?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, we take any comment coming from the president very seriously, but in the larger scheme of things -- this alliance that have been the bedrock of peace and security the Korean peninsula, but also the northeast Asia for decades.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] Next week, those tariffs on steel and aluminum go into effect. What's going to happen to South Korea?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, we've been arguing very much, you know, as ally and particularly in a visible alliance at this point when we are trying to make the most of this opportunity that is created to come to terms with a North Korean nuclear issue, that we need an exemption on this. So, we've put all of our arguments and considerations on the table and we're hoping for a good result.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] No assurances that you will be exempt yet?
[Foreign Minister Kang] I think we'll know when the decision is made and announced. But I think we've put... we're putting the best arguments in place.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] This comes in the middle of what was already a tough renegotiation of that U.S. free trade deal with South Korea. So are you concerned that some of this beating up on trade is going to hurt the alliance?
[Foreign Minister Kang] There have always been trade issues. The steel issue is not entirely new. This is particularly big, but we take it for what it is and try to deal with it. But again, yes, coming at this particular time, it's not helpful.
[MARGARET BRENNAN] Minister, thank you.
[Foreign Minister Kang] Thank you.