South Korea’s new president offers aid to North if it ends nuclear programme

Pyongyang has long made it clear it will not trade nukes for aid

South Korea's President Yoon Suk-yeol has called on the North to give up its nuclear weapons in exchange for massive economic aid.

At his swearing-in on Tuesday, Mr Yoon described Pyongyang's missiles as a threat to regional and global security.

“If North Korea genuinely embarks on a process to complete denuclearisation, we are prepared to work with the international community to present an audacious plan that will vastly strengthen North Korea's economy and improve the quality of life for its people,” AFP reported the president as saying.

Pyongyang conducted a record 15 weapons tests since January, including two launches last week.

Mr Yoon, 61, who started work in an underground bunker with a security briefing on North Korea, took office at a time of high tensions on the peninsula.

The former prosecutor, who won a close election by a razor-thin margin in March, said in his inaugural speech that he would consider sending transformative levels of economic aid to the North, but only if Pyongyang first gives up its nuclear weapons.

Mr Yoon's predecessor had pursued a policy of engagement with Pyongyang, brokering summits between Kim Jong-un and then-US president Donald Trump.

But talks collapsed in 2019 and diplomacy has since stalled.

“While North Korea's nuclear weapon programmes are a threat not only to our security and that of North-east Asia, the door to dialogue will remain open so that we can peacefully resolve this threat,” Mr Yoon said on Tuesday.

The offer of “audacious” aid is a dud, analysts said.

North Korea, which invests a vast chunk of its GDP into its UN-sanctioned weapons programmes, has long made it clear it will not trade nukes for aid.

“Since 2009, North Korea has stated it will not give up its nukes for economic incentives,” said Park Won-gon, a professor at Ewha University. “Yoon's comment will only trigger Pyongyang, who will see it as an attack.”

The formal inauguration ceremony for Mr Yoon was staged outside Seoul's National Assembly, featuring marching army bands, soldiers in ceremonial dress and a 21-gun salute.

Around 40,000 people attended.

Updated: May 10, 2022, 8:49 AM