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Foreign Minister's Interwiew with CNN (4.26.)
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FOREIGN MINISTER'S INTERVIEW WITH CNN (April 26)
[CNN Amanpour] Foreign Minister, welcome to the program.
[Foreign Minister Kang] Thank you, Christine. Very happy to be with you.
[CNN Amanpour] It is an amazing opportunity. Some call it a risky opportunity. Are you surprised by how quickly this moment has arrived? Let’s face it. Just four months ago, Kim Jong-un was talking about pressing nuclear buttons from his desk. President Trump was responding in kind.
[Foreign Minister Kang] I think we are all surprised, obviously pleasantly surprised, I think, by all indications we are headed towards a very successful summit between my President and Chairman Kim tomorrow. As I keep telling my colleagues, I feel like somebody stepped on the accelerator at the beginning of the year and it’s been non-stop since then.
[CNN Amanpour] How do you account for it?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Clearly, credit goes to President Trump. He has been determined to come to grips with this from day one. My President also since day one. I think the Presidents‘ momentum to work very closely together, sometimes in complementarity, sometimes in different messaging, but at the end, the message was North Korea will not be accepted, never be accepted as a nuclear power. And if it continues on this road and provokes, every provocation will be met with further sanctions, but we have also said you need to change, but if you change course, there is a better future on offer that we are willing to work with you.
[CNN Amanpour] So, now comes the hard part. What does Kim Jong-un want? Your President has said he has put down no pre-conditions, not even the demand they always make, which is the removal of the US forces and the ironclad security guarantees. Really, there are no pre-conditions? You don’t expect them to ask for anything?
[Foreign Minister Kang] He did say, what he did say was if the threat of, the military threat is removed, if it is guaranteed security, then there is no reason for him to have nuclear weapons. So, those are two big items that he has put on the table. We will know better with greater clarity at the table. So, you know, the details of denuclearization commitment is really to be elaborated and explored at the summit table.
[CNN Amanpour] Denuclearization may mean different things to different people. As you heard President Trump even just last couple of days, he said, what does it mean to him, it means dismantling and getting rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. Just getting rid of it, ending it. You and I feel the same way.
[Foreign Minister Kang] Yes, yes.
[CNN Amanpour] What do you think they mean by denuclearization?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Again, you know, they clearly know what we want. And, also, they had committed to the denuclearization jointly with South Korea in 1992, which was exactly removing any nuclear weapons and weapons development programs from the Korean Peninsula. They pretty much recommitted to that in the six-party agreement of 2005. So, our goal is clear. Denuclearization is a goal, but it is also a process. You need to have a process to get to that goal. So, I think the task is then spelling out that process.
[CNN Amanpour] Critics have said that you know this is not the first time that the North Korean leader has talked about denuclearization or wanting to end the war with the formal peace treaty, but before, it’s been sort of bottom-up kind of a thing. In other words, you know, economic aids have been given; humanitarian assistance has been given; some sanctions have been lifted and “Boom! the whole thing collapses.” So, people have been saying that in order for this to be more successful, that your president, for instance, in this summit needs to establish a top-down process and be very clear about what your demands are. Do you think that is what’s going to happen? I mean... Is your demand that sanctions won’t be removed, until you can see verifiable dismantling of their nuclear program.
[Foreign Minister Kang] That is exactly our position. So, until we see the visible meaningful steps, action taken by North Korea towards denuclearization, the sanctions are in place. Regardless of the intentions that we read, in the end it will be the actions that we will need to see.
[CNN Amanpour] What is on the table from President Moon’s perspective? We heard that he wants to talk about a formal end to the war. Is that on the table? A peace treaty?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Peace in a... peace is a,., I think... Yes at some point we will need a peace treaty to replace the armistice that was signed in 1953. But peace is also about the reality. You can’t go from an armistice agreement... and they want the peace... You need to create the reality of the peace. By removing hostilities and then when there is a sufficient confidence on both sides, then you are ready to sign a peace treaty.
[CNN Amanpour] So, it is not something that you are going to immediately put on the table. In other words, signing a formal peace treaty before even getting to the disarmament.
[Foreign Minister Kang] I think that will be unrealistic. I think certainly ascertaining the understanding and the aspiration on the part of both leaders in that direction will be a good thing, and I am hoping that would happen. But you know, putting a something on the table to be signed is, you know, a long off in the future.
[CNN Amanpour] Do you feel a lot of pressure? Does South Korea feels a lot of pressure for this summit meeting? Is there a lot riding on it?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Yes.. Yes.. Pressure, but also a great deal of support. The president has, you know, basically put his leadership on the line by this huge initiative, but I think he does so with confidence and a clear sense of where he wants to take this.
[CNN Amanpour] How important is it that Kim Jung Un is going to come down to the Demilitarized Zone to the peace village and step kind of over the border in the South korean part of...
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, I think that alone is very significant. As you know, two previous ones were held in Pyeongyang. They had made all the arrangement, we had placed trust in them to make sure that the summit took place. They are placing their trust in us. That is a good sign.
[CNN Amanpour] What do you think will constitute the success after the summit wraps up on Friday?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Um... some kind of a joint statement? That spells out the shared understanding of the two leaders um... on a broad set of issues, which are denuclearization, peace and South-North relations. If we can get put in writings the North Korean leader’s commitment to the denuclearization, that would be a very solid outcome, but then this to be... this would the course setter for the next historic engagement, which is the US-North Korea summit.
[CNN Amanpour] How do you analyze? You must have been listening to what he has been saying to his own people, speeches, statements over the last several days and weeks. And the last one was when he essentially declared North Korea as a nuclear power, and said that we need a new strategic course, and that is economic development. Do you see that as genuine that he is willing to have a different view for his country and that he is trying to bring his people along, I mean he doesn’t really have to, he has the ultimate power there.
[Foreign Minister Kang] When he so clearly states that in his declaration, I think it’s not just rhetoric. It is a clear commitment that ‘I’m going to be delivering this for this country‘. So I think it’s genuine.
[CNN Amanpour] Many people thought President Trump was being very dangerous with all the fire and the fury, and my button is bigger than your button, all of that kind of stuff. Did that concentrate South Korea’s mind? Did you feel you had to really get out ahead of the curve and see if there is another way forward, rather than a potential conflict?
[Foreign Minister Kang] I think in the end all the options on the table -- (the messages of the one end of that option table) and us consistently on the peaceful resolution side -- has, in fact, worked in complementarity. But, the first meeting between President Moon and Trump clearly spelled out the joint position on this, which was pressure and sanctions, but also dialogue towards peaceful resolution. That hasn’t changed. I think the nuancing of that message on the day to day basis was ups and downs, but that has been the consistent joint stance.
[CNN Amanpour] Human rights have always been an issue when it comes to North Korea. And there are people in the human rights community and elsewhere who are concerned that this is not part of formal agenda. Can you tell me whether it will be on the agenda? Will you raise the issue of human rights, given that North Korea is considered to be, if not the worst, or then one of the worst violators?
[Foreign Minister Kang] We are not sure North Korea is ready to respond to this issue at this point. But the summit has been, is being structured to be very flexible. So depending upon how the discussions go, I wouldn’t rule it out.
[CNN Amanpour] You wouldn’t rule out your President raising it?
[Foreign Minister Kang] But, I wouldn’t count on it being there, either.
[CNN Amanpour] What is your fall-back option? What is Plan B, if this summit somehow doesn’t work, if you don’t get the general statement, if you don’t get a feeling that actually this is going to lead somewhere?
[Foreign Minister Kang] Well, I don’t want (to get) into hypotheticals. But I think past experience tells us that however difficult the situation is, you need to engage, you need to constantly have them at the table.
[CNN Amanpour] After this summit, what then does President Moon, how does he engage with President Trump? Is there going to be a meeting? What does he do? Does he carry back a message that it’s a red light, or green light, yellow light? Will he advise us whether it’s a good idea to have a meeting?
[Foreign Minister Kang] I’m sure our two Presidents will be immediately on the phone for my President to debrief President Trump, and depending upon how the US and North Korea go, there could be a trilateral summit.
[CNN Amanpour] At this point, you are confident that there will be a Trump-Kim meeting?
[Foreign Minister Kang] There will be.
[CNN Amanpour] Foreign Minister, thank you very much.
[Foreign Minister Kang] Thank you, Christiane. Thank you.