SEOUL, South Korea — In his first one-on-one interview since being elected, South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks with “CBS This Morning” co-host Norah O’Donnell about the recent death of Otto Warmbier, the American student who was detained by North Korea in January 2016 and released last week in a coma.
President Moon: First of all, I would like to convey my deepest condolences to the bereaved family of Mr. Otto Warmbier and the American people for the sorrow and shock they are suffering through.
Moon: We can make speculations that there were many unjust and cruel treatments to Mr. Warmbier. And I strongly condemn such cruel actions by North Korea. Even today, there are many Korean nationals and American citizens who are detained in North Korea. I also urge North Korea to return these people to their families.
O’Donnell: Sen. John McCain has said that Otto Warmbier was murdered by the Kim Jong Un regime. Do you believe the North Koreans should be held responsible for his death?
Moon: Yes… This had happened while Mr. Warmbier was in the detention of North Korean authorities. … We cannot know for sure that North Korea killed Mr. Warmbier. But I believe it is quite clear that they have a heavy responsibility in the process that led to Mr. Warmbier’s death.
O’Donnell: How does this affect your efforts to restart the dialogue with North Korea?
Moon: I believe we must now have the perception that North Korea is an irrational regime. Working with such a country, we must achieve the goal of the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program.
O’Donnell: How do you sit knee to knee, as you promised, with an irrational leader and negotiate?
Moon: I believe that dialogue is necessary. We were unable to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through only the sanctions and pressure.
O’Donnell: The idea of engaging in dialogue with North Koreans before they are denuclearized is fundamentally at odds with longstanding U.S. policy. So what are you going to say to President Trump when you meet with him next week?
Moon: I believe that my position is not at odds with the policy of the United States or that of President Trump. It seems to me that President Trump has criticized the failed former policies of his predecessor administrations. And on that point, I have the same view as President Trump.
O’Donnell: But it’s not clear that, even under President Trump, that he will agree to allow you to negotiate with the North Koreans without any preconditions. And you want to do that. You want to start a dialogue without any concessions by the North Koreans. Aren’t you giving in to them?
Moon: I have never mentioned a dialogue with no preconditions whatsoever. I believe that first we must vie for a freeze of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs. And then, as a second phase, try to achieve the complete dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program. And I believe there are voices supporting such a step-by-step approach even within the United States.
For more on how President Moon wants to deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, watch the extended interview today on “CBS This Morning,” which airs 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. ET on CBS.