'Pope's North Korea visit will help speed up denuclearization'

Frederick Owens
October 21, 2018

Following President Moon Jae-in's suggestions for easing sanctions and incentivizing the North, South Korean lawmakers are divided over the idea of rewarding North Korea before its denuclearization.

Moon was writing on the eve of his meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican on Thursday that will also see him deliver an invitation to North Korea from leader Kim Jong-un.

The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said of the likelihood of Francis accepting such an invite: "I would say the availability to go is there".

As Song called for giving what he called a "small gift" to induce the North, main opposition Liberty Korea Party Rep. Kim Moo-sung and Bareunmirae Party Rep. Choung Byoung-gug expressed concerns over fast-improving inter-Korean ties.

No pope has ever visited North Korea.

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In a statement, the Vatican said: "Strong appreciation was expressed for the common commitment to fostering all useful initiatives to overcome the tensions that still exist in the Korean peninsula, in order to usher in a new season of peace and development".

President Moon Jae-in in an article for the official Vatican newspaper on Tuesday pledged to turn division and confrontation on the Korean Peninsula into prosperity through peace. The Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951. The thorns, Moon explained, "are the sufferings of the Korean people".

Before departing, Moon thanked the pope again for welcoming him and said, "You are not only the head of the Catholic Church, but also a teacher for humanity".

Moon's meeting with the pope will be "exceptional", according to the Vatican, as the pope usually receives a visiting foreign head of state early in the morning and usually only for about half an hour. "North Korea summit, we are paving a desirable way toward assuring a peaceful future for the Korean Peninsula and the world", Moon said.

The meeting between Moon and Pope Francis was held behind closed doors with only South Korean priest Han Hyun-taek serving as the interpreter. Our prayers today will surely become a reality.

North Korea strictly controls the religious activities of its people.

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