Kicking off a round of high-profile summit diplomacy on a regional peace process, South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed optimism Monday that formal dialogue with North Korea will resume before long.
He stressed that dialogue momentum stays alive despite concerns about an apparent impasse in nuclear talks after the Hanoi summit between the United States and North Korea failed in late February.
"I believe that we will be able to resume such dialogue between the two Koreas and between the U.S. and North Korea in the near future," Moon said during a joint press conference with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, after their 80-minute summit.
Moon pointed out that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump are continuously expressing their mutual trust and reiterating their commitment to talking with each other.
He added, "Dialogue is underway for the continuation of dialogue between the two Koreas and North Korea and the U.S."
It was unclear whether the president meant informal contact with Pyongyang, as there have been no formal, announced negotiations with the communist nation in recent weeks.
Reporters attending the translation-based joint press conference of Moon and Niinisto were not given a chance to ask a follow-up question on the matter, as it took more time than scheduled.
One of Moon's key aides later explained that he was apparently referring to various "contacts" involving North Korea and that there's no specific information yet to make public in connection with a push for dispatching a special envoy to Pyongyang or arranging a fourth inter-Korean summit.
Moon arrived in Helsinki on Sunday, becoming the first South Korean president to pay a state visit to the Nordic nation in 13 years.
The Finnish capital is the first leg of his weeklong tour of Northern Europe that will also include state visits to Norway and Sweden.
The regional swing came as the president, who is seeking to expedite denuclearization talks, is gearing up for summit talks with Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the occasion of the G-20 summit to take place in Osaka, Japan, from June 28-29.
Moon won the Finnish president's firm commitment to fully support for the Korea peace process.
Niinisto noted, "The Korean Peninsula stands at a very important juncture in term of peace efforts."
Finland, a country with the experience of leading efforts to ease Cold War tensions via the Helsinki process, is ready to do whatever South Korea needs for peace on the peninsula at any time, he added. Finland is scheduled to assume the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1.
In the summit, the leaders also agreed to elevate bilateral partnerships to a new level, especially in connection with South Korea's search for new growth engines.
"South Korea is moving toward an innovative, inclusive nation," Moon said, describing Finland, a mecca for tech-savvy startups, as a role model. "I hope South Korea and Finland will become cooperative partners for co-prosperity to cope together with the fourth industrial revolution era."
The two sides reached a deal to open a new airline route between Helsinki and Busan, a southern port city in South Korea, next year.
South Korea and Finland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on aviation and three other MOUs intended to strengthen cooperation on energy, gender equality, startups and small and medium-sized enterprises.
"We have agreed to cooperate closely not only on regional peace but also on climate change and sustainable development," Moon said.
Following the summit, Moon attended a luncheon hosted by Helsinki Mayor Jan Vapaavuori at the City Hall, in which the Finnish president participated as well.
He then had talks with Matti Vanhanen, speaker of the Finnish parliament.
Moon told the speaker that he has been impressed by a mature democracy of Finland, as shown by bipartisan cooperation, deputy Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Han Jung-woo said.
He welcomed a plan to expand partnerships between the parliaments of the two countries and thanked Finland for keep trying to help facilitate the Korea peace process -- for instance, the organization of a Track II session of the U.S. and the two Koreas.
"The peace process to overcome 70 years of animosity will never be easy but (we) should make preparations with patience for a long time just as the Helsinki process," Moon was quoted as saying.
Moon then visited the campus and research area of Otaniemi, a suburb of Helsinki, which is nicknamed the Silicon Valley of Europe. It's the largest hub of high technology, innovation and business in Northern Europe.
He said that South Korea has introduced 5G communication networks for the first time in the world and that Finland is cooperating with South Korea to launch the world's first 6G service. (Yonhap)