South Korea and the international community may begin discussions on possible rewards for North Korea if the reclusive state decides to at least freeze its nuclear program and come to the denuclearization dialogue, South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday.
"I believe it will not be easy realistically to move on to complete dismantlement of North Korean nukes in the near future, considering recent advances in North Korea's nuclear and missile programs," the president said at a press conference.
"That means it will likely be North Korea first freezing its nuclear program and then moving onto complete dismantlement, and if that happens, I believe we and the international community may discuss what we can do in return," he added.
The South Korean president was attending a regional forum hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila. He arrived here Sunday following trips to Indonesia and Vietnam.
The South Korean leader refused to answer when asked whether his country and the United States may consider halting their joint military exercises in South Korea, which have long been accused by Pyongyang as being aimed at attacking and toppling the communist regime.
Still, Moon said anything could be discussed if the North comes to the dialogue table.
"Once we enter the dialogue phase, we may be able to discuss while leaving all possibilities open," he said.
Moon, however, insisted now was still time to focus on keeping maximum pressure and sanctions against the impoverished North.
"I believe now is time to focus on ways to bring North Korea to the path of dialogue, in other words putting pressure and sanctions against North Korea," he told the press conference.
President Moon noted the upcoming Winter Olympic Games to be held in South Korea early next year may provide a chance for the North to emerge from its long isolation.
"Should North Korea take part, I believe the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games will go beyond being a simple Olympic event to provide a great chance to contribute to peace between the South and North Korea and to peace in the entire Northeast Asian region," he said.
Pyongyang remains silent despite repeated invitations from the South Korean president to take part in the Olympic Games to be held Feb. 9-25.
Moon says he remained neither optimistic nor pessimistic, noting the North has often made such decisions at the last minute.
"Even if North Korea does not take part, the 2020 Summer Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing following the PyeongChang Olympics next year. A series of three Olympic events will be held in Asia and the Pyeongchang Olympics will be the first of them," he said. (Yonhap)