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The Future of Asia 2018

Dismantling North Korea's nuclear weapons only the beginning, adviser says

Seoul envisions EU-like 'freedom of movement' for divided peninsula

Getting rid of North Korea's nuclear weapons would take two and a half years, said South Korean presidential adviser Moon Chung-in. (Photo by Hiroyuki Kobayashi)

TOKYO -- The government of South Korea favors a two-stage approach to North Korean denuclearization, allowing time to end a weapons program that is far more advanced than past examples, a special adviser told the Nikkei Asian Review on Monday.

In an interview on the sidelines of the Future of Asia 2018 conference, Moon Chung-in said dismantling Pyongyang's nuclear weapons would take about two and a half years.

Closing all of its nuclear facilities would take a decade, assuming the U.S. urges North Korea to follow the disarmament model taken by South Africa in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said Moon, who advises South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Although "North Korea has a much more complicated nuclear weapons system than South Africa [did]," he believes the same approach is appropriate to increase the "speed of dismantling of critical items which threaten American allies."

He said that action on non-military nuclear components would be verified by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but that military verification should be led by the U.S. or other permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.

A high-stakes summit in Singapore between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un takes place on Tuesday, with the two men expected to discuss denuclearization in exchange for economic aid.

Moon predicted that the summit "will bring success but in the process of implementation, both the U.S. and North Korea will be encountering problems." 

Moon also said that while Pyongyang proposes reunification of the Korean Peninsula under a federal system, the South prefers a different approach. "South Korea proposes a union ... like the European Union, through which we can have a free flow of people, goods and services." This option would preserve the sovereignty of both nations.

"Peace should come first, then comes unification," he stressed.

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