On a seven-day tour of Europe, South Korean President Moon Jae-in met with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday and called on France to do its part in efforts toward peace with North Korea.
“If it is deemed that denuclearization of North Korea has reached an irreversible stage, we should accelerate the denuclearization process by easing international sanctions on North Korea,” President Moon said in a bilateral summit with the French President. In response, French President Macron said, “We are waiting for North Korea to show its willingness to cooperate on the denuclearization and dismantling of its missile programs.” Macron implied that it is premature to relieve sanctions on North Korea by saying, “Until then, France will have to maintain the sanctions adopted by the United Nations Security Council against North Korea.”
It appears that President Moon’s European tour is focused on persuading European leaders to ease sanctions against North Korea. Even though President Moon’s call was based on a premise that “If it is deemed that denuclearization of North Korea has reached an irreversible stage,” a Cheong Wa Dae official went one step further by saying, “It (ease of sanctions) is necessary in order to move toward that stage and in the process of completing that stage.” Cheong Wa Dae even said President Moon “brought the issue of easing sanctions on North Korea to the international spotlight.” It sounds like President Moon has decided to lobby for North Korea on his European tour.
The international community is divided in two as to whether they should ease sanctions on North Korea. The United States is maintaining its stance that denuclearization comes first before any rewards amid stalled nuclear negotiations with North Korea. North Korea, China, and Russia have formed a united front, announcing a report aimed at urging the international community to relieve the sanctions by the U.N. Security Council. The South Korean government appears to have sided with the camp that defies the U.S.’ tough policy on North Korea. President Moon is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday and is likely to suggest them to consider easing sanctions against North Korea. But it is doubtful that they would respond positively to his suggestion.
A U.S. State Department official on Monday stressed the importance of the complete implementation of sanctions on North Korea by saying they expect all nations to seriously take their responsibility for ending North Korea’s illegal nuclear and missile programs. Although he did not specifically mention South Korea, it can be seen as a warning that agreements between the two Koreas should not undermine international sanctions against North Korea. Foreign media outlets have reported that South Korea is defying the U.S. policies and is at odds with Washington over easing sanctions on North Korea.
To be sure, allies can have different views and sometimes can have friction over certain issues. But if Seoul and Washington have conflicting views on Pyongyang, the very reason why the two nations became allies in the first place, it will lead to distrust and deal a blow to the bilateral alliance. If allies have conflicting views on a certain issue, one should persuade the other, not ask other countries to persuade your ally. Allies narrow the differences and resolve problems together through close dialogue. This is the power of alliance.