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VICE FOREIGN MINISTER's INTERVIEW WITH CNN AMANPOUR (NOV. 9TH)
[AMANPOUR] Well, you are in an incredibly important country at an incredibly important place right now. So how would you assess the state of affairs between you and the United States and between you and North Korea right now? Was it intentional that the rhetoric from President Trump was more muted, more subtle than it had been before his visit to South Korea?
[Vice Minister Lim] Well, I think the relationship between Korea and the United States couldn't be better. In particular, the very successful state visit by President Trump has provided us with an opportunity to show the strong solidarity between our two allies and at the same time, we could reconfirm that Washington and Seoul are exactly on the same page in our approach toward the North Korean nuclear issue. And at the same time, we believe that the speech made by President Trump at our national assembly sent a very balanced and nuanced message to North Korea.
[AMANPOUR] So, let me just take the first bit of what you just said that relations couldn't be better and we're on the same page. So does that mean President Trump has withdrawn the accusation or the characterization of President Moon as an appeaser when it came to North Korea? Does that mean that you feel that President Trump may no longer want to pull the special trade deal that U.S. and South Korea have together? Have you gone any further in that regard?
[Vice Minister Lim] I'm not aware of the kind of harsh criticism of President Trump against my president. Having said that, both presidents during the visit have agreed to work for the better FTA in an expeditious manner and so far the FTA between Korea and the U.S. has served our two countries in a mutually beneficial way - mutually beneficial manner. We believe, through the negotiations while could take place in the near future, we might be able to walk together to make up the better deal between Seoul and Washington.
[AMANPOUR] So, as we look at the FTA, you said the free trade agreement, let's again focus on the real issue at the heart of national security concern, and that is North Korea. You have heard what presidential, the leader Kim Jong-un has said he said that you know President Trump's language was wreaked of gun power powder and that it's you know emerged from the snout. I mean it was pretty ugly language as they are known to do.
[Vice Minister Lim] Well, what would you expect from the North Korean press in response to the speech made by President Trump at our national assembly? It is something we could expect, but having said that, I would like to emphasize that Pyongyang has been relatively quiet in terms of provocations since it's last missile launch on September 15th.
[AMANPOUR] Do you expect, because your intelligence agencies reported last week that there may be a missile test or indeed an above ground nuclear test.
[Vice Minister Lim] Well, that kind of possibility could not always be removed 100 percent from our expectations, but having said that, if we could create an environment where Jong-un would not bear any kind of further provocations, I think that will be the desirable situation which we are all aiming at.
[AMANPOUR] So, President Trump has said, “Look, it has got to work out. We must make it work out.” President Moon said war would be unthinkable. What are the concrete steps that you may have come to regarding the next way forward with North Korea?
[Vice Minister Lim] Right now, I believe we are all focused on pressure and sanctions. But both Korea and the US together with the China are on the same page in terms of applying the strategy of pressure and engagement towards North Korea. Although we will continue to exert pressure upon the regime in Pyongyang through the full implementation of the UN Security Council Sanctions, at one point we hope that Pyongyang will be able to change its mind and the strategy calculation regarding the value of nuclear weapons and missile programmes so that they can come to a negotiation table for a very serious talk on the denuclearization.
[AMANPOUR] President Trump said “Come to the table. Make a deal” but a deal is a two-way street. So, you're talking about the pressure or the sanctions from your end, but where is the carrot for North Korea? What are the allies prepared to do to make a negotiation and a compromise?
[Vice Minister Lim] Well, first of all, Pyongyang should make up its mind to come to a negotiation table. Only when they come to a negotiation table, we might be able to offer them some carrots that you were just describing. But we might be able to make all the efforts to bring the horse to a well-spring but we can't make the horse drink the water. Likewise, Pyongyang on his own and under certain pressures from the outside world, should be able to think twice at the cost of having nuclear weapons programs and at the cost of being pressured upon the sanctions regimes.
[AMANPOUR] Is it possible that as part of the negotiations, the United States, South Korea, and the allies will assure Pyongyang that they are not interested in regime change? And is it possible that there could be sort of freeze for freeze? In other words, if Pyongyang agrees to naturalize the nuclear threat, then there might be less need for that amount of US military presence and exercises on the Korean peninsula?
[Vice Minister Lim] Well, first of all, Seoul and Washington couldn’t be more clear regarding our intentions which is no regime collapse or no regime change in North Korea. Secretary Tillerson has made it clear on many occasions, and Seoul is exactly on the same page in that regard. Therefore, we believe that in a sense, we have been already sending message to Pyongyang, reassuring them of our intentions. With regard to the freeze for freeze you just talked about, I think the freeze of the nuclear programs in North Korea could be at the entrance but it is not the final goal of our negotiations when and if there are negotiations.
[AMANPOUR] On that note, Vice Minister LIM, thank you so much indeed for joining us from Seoul.
[Vice Minister Lim] Thank you so much for having me on. Thank you.