South Korean President Moon Jae-in pledged Monday to pursue an “irreversible path to peace” with North Korea until the end of his five-year term in May, despite the North Korean leader’s unresponsiveness to the country’s proposal for an end-of-war declaration.
“The government will pursue normalization of inter-Korean relations and an irreversible path to peace until the end. I hope efforts for dialogue will continue in the next administration too,” Moon said in his final New Year’s address, Yonhap News Agency reported.
South Korea has been pushing for a declaration to end the 1950–53 Korean War, which ended in an armistice, to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula. But North Korea insists that any formal treaty to end the war must first be preceded by an end to U.S. “hostilities” toward Pyongyang.
The United States has reiterated that it holds “no hostile intent” toward Pyongyang and expressed willingness to meet with North Korea for negotiations without preconditions.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in his own New Year’s speech spoke of “principled issues and some tactical directions to be maintained in inter-Korean relations and foreign affairs,” but made no mention of his country’s dealings with the United States and South Korea.
Kim aims to bolster North Korea’s military capabilities and develop “high-tech weapon systems” in response to the instability on the Korean Peninsula.
While Moon acknowledged that “there is still a long way to go” for the two countries to “institutionalize sustainable peace” on the Korean Peninsula, he believes that the “international community will respond” if both sides resume dialogue and cooperation.
Meanwhile, South Korea’s military said that an unknown person was spotted crossing the Military Demarcation Line into North Korea at around 10:40 p.m. on Saturday, Yonhap reported.
The person was first spotted in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)—a zone separating the two Koreas—at around 9:20 p.m., and a search operation was carried out to capture the person but failed, the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
The military discovered from monitoring equipment that the person had climbed the barbed wire fence and entered the DMZ at around 6:40 p.m., indicating that the breach went unnoticed until 9:20 p.m.
The person was later identified as a North Korean defector, who appeared to be in his 30s. The military surveillance footage showed that the man appears to be the same defector who entered South Korea via an eastern front-line route in November 2020.
“The authorities presume the person is a North Korean defector and are in the process of verifying related facts,” the ministry said on Monday, The Korea Times reported.
South Korea said it had notified North Korea about the border crossing but had yet to receive any reply.