President of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Moon Jae-in, second from right, speaks during a cabinet meeting at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Oct 23, 2018. The government of Moon formally approved the rapprochement deals he made with leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un last month. (BEE JAE-MAN/YONHAP VIA AP)
SEOUL — The Republic of Korea (ROK) government on Tuesday formally approved the rapprochement deals ROK President Moon Jae-in made with leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un last month.
The step is largely seen as an effort by Moon to show he's determined to carry out the deals.
Under the Pyongyang Declaration, the two sides agreed to end hostile relations, increase cooperation and exchanges and denuclearize the Korean Peninsula
Moon "ratified" the deals on Tuesday afternoon, hours after his Cabinet approved them during a regular meeting, Moon's office said in a statement.
At the start of the Cabinet meeting, Moon said in televised remarks that the deals' ratification would help further improve ties with the DPRK and accelerate global efforts to achieve the "complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula."
The endorsements are certain to deepen a national divide in the ROK because conservatives have opposed such moves, saying the DPRK deals will undermine national security and waste taxpayers' money.
In the ROK, a president can ratify some agreements with DPRK without parliamentary endorsement.
Moon, a liberal who took office last year, has said that greater reconciliation with the DPRK would help resolve the international standoff over the DPRK’s nuclear ambitions. Moon has met with Kim three times this year, and he shuttled between Pyongyang and Washington to help arrange a series of high-level talks between the countries, including a June summit between Kim and President Donald Trump in Singapore.
READ MORE: Reciprocity key to denuclearization process
President Moon Jae-in the Republic of Korea (ROK) and top leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) Kim Jong-un, right, wave during a welcoming ceremony at Sunan International Airport in Pyongyang, Sept 18, 2018. The ROK's government on Oct 23, 2018 approved the Pyongyang Declaration, which was signed in the third summit inn Pyongyang in September between Moon and Kim. (PYONGYANG PRESS CORPS POOL VIA AP)
Since entering nuclear talks earlier this year, Kim has taken some steps like dismantling his nuclear testing site and releasing American detainees. The United States responded by suspending some of its annual military drills with the ROK but is reluctant to provide the DPRK with major political or economic rewards unless the country takes significant disarmament steps.
Moon's September deals with Kim were largely associated with the broader agreements struck during their first summit in April. Under the latest deals, the two Koreas are to hold a groundbreaking ceremony on a project to reconnect cross-border railways and roads and push to resume stalled economic cooperation projects. The two sides also agreed to disarm their shared border, establish buffer zones along the border and withdraw some of their front-line guard posts.
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