South Korean President Moon Jae-in was set to meet with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday for talks that will likely focus on North Korea amid his efforts to peacefully denuclearize the communist state.
Moon arrived in Paris on Oct. 13, 2018 on a four-day state visit. The Moon-Macron summit will mark the second of its kind following their first meeting held on the sidelines of the Group of 20 summit in Germany last year.
The leaders were widely expected to discuss ways to improve their countries' bilateral ties and economic cooperation with Moon vowing to further develop the countries' strategic partnership established in 2004.
Their talks will also focus on ways to rid the North of its nuclear weapons as the South Korean president is expected to rally support for inter-Korean rapprochement and economic cooperation that he says may help accelerate the North's denuclearization process.
Moon visited Pyongyang last month for his third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. The summit helped resume denuclearization dialogue between the North and the United States, which stalled after U.S. President Donald Trump called off a scheduled North Korea trip by his top diplomat, Mike Pompeo, citing what he called a lack of progress in the North's denuclearization process.
Still, many believe the U.S.-North Korea talks may again hit a stumbling block as Pyongyang continues to demand early rewards for the denuclearization steps it has taken or promised to take while Washington insists on maximum sanctions against the impoverished North until it fully denuclearizes.
The South Korean president says the U.S. and the rest of the world needs to show North Korea that it has made the right decision to give up its nuclear ambitions by providing at least part of what it can enjoy following its complete denuclearization.
"The world needs to show that Chairman Kim's decision to denuclearize was the right decision, and it must lead North Korea to the path of concrete and lasting peace," Moon said in a written interview with the French daily Le Figaro.
South Korea began preparing for a possible resumption of its economic assistance and cooperation for North Korea shortly after the first Moon-Kim summit held in April that also led to the historic U.S.-North Korea summit, held in Singapore in June.
Moon says his country will not take any measures to help the impoverished North that may violate U.N. Security Council sanctions but that the international community may soon need to start considering easing or even removing some of its sanctions against the North.
"I believe North Korea must move forward with actual denuclearization steps to enable such a condition," he said earlier. "I believe if North Korea continues to take sincere denuclearization steps and when it is believed to have reached a point of no return, the U.N. sanctions may start to be eased."
Moon says France, a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, may play a pivotal role in ensuring progress in the North Korean denuclearization process by enabling quid pro quo.
"Most of all, I will ask France, which is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a key member of the EU, to lend its support for denuclearization and lasting peace of the Korean Peninsula," Moon has said.
Moon and Macron will hold a joint press event later in the day to announce the outcome of their summit.
The South Korean president will head to Italy on Oct. 16, 2018 for an official visit to Rome and the Vatican. (Yonhap)