South Korea offers 'audacious' economic aid to North if it abandons nuclear weapons

President Yoon also vowed to improve relations with Tokyo during his address on Liberation Day Monday, a holiday that marks the end of Japanese colonization of Korea 77 years ago. Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 15 (UPI) — South Korea will help “dramatically improve” the North Korean economy if the regime commits to denuclearization, President Yoon Suk-yeol said on Monday.

Yoon made the proposal in a speech marking Liberation Day, a holiday that commemorates the defeat of Japan in World War II and the end of Tokyo’s colonial rule over Korea.

“I am here to propose an audacious initiative that can dramatically improve North Korea’s economy and its people’s livelihoods,” Yoon said in a ceremony on the lawn of the presidential office, “if North Korea stops developing nuclear weapons and transitions to substantial denuclearization.”

Yoon originally made the offer during his inaugural address in May, but he hadn’t provided any further details until Monday.

“We will implement a large-scale food supply program to North Korea; provide power generation, transmission and distribution infrastructure support; and carry out port and airport modernization projects for international trade,” Yoon said.

South Korean and U.S. forces participated in joint military exercises last month that involved the F-35 Lightning II. File Photo by Staff Sgt. Kate Thornton/U.S. Air Force

The South Korean leader also offered assistance in modernizing the North’s agricultural and medical sectors and said that Seoul would help facilitate international investment.

Yoon has generally taken a stronger stance against Pyongyang than his engagement-focused predecessor, former President Moon Jae-in.

Seoul and Washington have ramped up military engagement, including holding their first-ever joint drills with F-35A stealth fighter jets last month. The allies are slated to return to full-scale field exercises next week, which has drawn a furious reaction from Pyongyang.

North Korea has shown little interest in diplomatic engagement or denuclearization since a February 2019 summit between then-U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ended without an agreement.

Pyongyang has conducted at least 18 rounds of weapons tests in 2022 and experts say the secretive state appears poised for its seventh nuclear detonation at any time.

Yoon also revisited his campaign pledge to improve Seoul’s relationship with Tokyo, which has grown more strained in recent years over high-profile court cases involving Korean victims of wartime forced labor and sexual slavery.

Japan and South Korea are neighbors who “must work together to face the challenges that threaten the freedom of global citizens,” Yoon said Monday.

“When Korea-Japan relations move toward the future and when the mission of the times aligns based on universal values, problems of the past can also be properly resolved.”

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