SEOUL—President Donald Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for helping bring North Korea to the negotiating table, South Korea’s leader said, part of Seoul’s effort to credit the U.S. administration for spurring the recent thaw on the heavily militarized peninsula.
The remarks from South Korean President Moon Jae-in came three days after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the inter-Korean demilitarized zone and agreed to push for a permanent peace treaty to formally end the Korean War.
“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” Mr. Moon said Monday during a cabinet meeting, according to a spokesman for the presidential office in Seoul. “The only thing we need is peace.”
For the U.S., peace has meant that North Korea abandons its nuclear weapons. North Korea has said it would shut down its nuclear test site by May, though U.S. officials have expressed caution about the pledge.
The peace prize has already been awarded once for diplomacy with North Korea—in 2000, to South Korea’s then-president, Kim Dae-jung, who met with Kim Jong Un’s father, Kim Jong Il, in Pyongyang.
Earlier this year, a group of private citizens formed a committee to nominate Mr. Moon for the Nobel Peace Prize, but disbanded a day later under pressure from the presidential office. “Such movements are not desirable,” the Blue House said at the time, calling it “embarrassing.”
Mr. Moon’s comments represented the latest attempt by the South Korean government to credit Mr. Trump with kick-starting the sudden burst of diplomacy that began at the beginning of the year and continued through the Winter Olympics in South Korea.
The peace drive follows a year in which Mr. Trump traded insults and threats with Mr. Kimand directed a campaign of “maximum pressure” that ramped up sanctions against the North.
In August, Mr. Trump said North Korean threats against the U.S. would “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen,” prompting North Korea through to make its most specific threat yet, saying that it was considering firing missiles at Guam, a U.S. territory in the Pacific.
The next month, Mr. Trump, speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, threatened to annihilate North Korea. Some senior U.S. officials emphasized that diplomacy remained the preferred course of action.
- Trump: U.S. Weighing Singapore, Korean ‘DMZ’ for Summit
- U.S. Wants Proof North Korea Will Dismantle Its Nuclear Program (April 30, 2018)
- North Korea Vows to Shut Down Nuclear Test Site, Seoul Says (April 29, 2018)
- North Korea’s Kim Jong Un and South Korean Leader to Pursue Peace Deal, Denuclearization (April 27, 2018)
- One Small Step for Moon, One Large Stride for Korean Harmony (April 27, 2018)
- Where North and South Korea Meet(April 26, 2018)
- Trump: ‘Three or Four’ Days, Up to Five Sites Considered for North Korea Summit (April 26, 2018)
- North Korea’s Nuclear Test Site Is Largely Unusable, Chinese Scientists Say (April 25, 2018)
- North and South Korea Hold Historic Talks
- Truce Village: Armistice in Panmunjom
The tough language spurred Mr. Moon to warn the U.S. against a unilateral attack and to redouble his efforts to pursue a diplomatic solution.
Mr. Moon has been publicly praising Mr. Trumpfor his contributions to the peace process since early January, when he thanked Mr. Trump at a press conference, a day after senior officials from the two Koreas met.
“I believe Mr. Trump did a lot in order to facilitate the inter-Korean talks yesterday, so I’d like to express my gratitude to Mr. Trump,” the South Korean president said.
Mr. Trump hasn’t publicly addressed the possibility of winning a Nobel Peace Prize. He said Friday of the inter-Korean summit: “When I began, people were saying that was an impossibility. They said there were two alternatives: Let them have what they have or go to war. And now we have a much better alternative than anybody thought even possible.”
Speaking at a campaign-style rally in Washington Township, Michigan the next day, Mr. Trump’s remarks on the situation on the Korean Peninsula were drowned out by chants of “Nobel! Nobel!”
“That’s very nice, thank you, that’s very nice,” he said. “I just want to get the job done.”
Mr. Trump has also assigned credit to Chinese President Xi Jinping for the recent diplomatic drive. “Please do not forget the great help that my good friend, President Xi of China, has given to the United States, particularly at the Border of North Korea,” he tweeted last week. “Without him it would have been a much longer, tougher, process!”
Mr. Trump is set to meet with Mr. Kim in the coming weeks, though a date and venue haven’t yet been set. Mr. Trump suggested on Twitter Monday that he was considering a meeting at the demilitarized zone where Messrs. Moon and Kim met last week.
Write to Jonathan Cheng at firstname.lastname@example.org