South Korean leader tells pope a visit to the North would create ‘momentum for peace’
South Korean President Moon Jae-in told Pope Francis during a trip to the Vatican on Friday that a visit from him to North Korea could offer “momentum for peace in the Korean Peninsula.”
“South Koreans have huge expectations [for a potential Francis visit to the North],” Moon spokesman Park Kyung-mee said on Friday, The Associated Press reported after the meeting.
Moon, who is a practicing Catholic, met with the pope before a Group of 20 summit. Moon gave the pontiff a cross made from barbed wire from the Korean demilitarized zone, while the pope gave him a medallion showing Bernini’s original plan for St. Peter’s Square.
Francis reportedly said he would “gladly visit” North Korea if he got an invitation.
In 2018, during a summit between the two countries, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un told Moon the country would “enthusiastically” welcome a trip from the pope, according to the AP.
The pope described the countries as “brothers who share the same language” on Friday, with the Vatican saying after the meeting “hopes were shared that joint effort and good will may favor peace and development in the Korean Peninsula, supported by solidarity and by fraternity.”
Tensions have been high between North Korea and the U.S., one of South Korea’s biggest allies, as Pyongyang has been conducting missile tests that the U.S. condemns.
“The U.S. has frequently signaled it’s not hostile to our state, but there is no action-based evidence to make us believe that they are not hostile,” Kim said earlier this month. “The U.S. is continuing to create tensions in the region with its wrong judgments and actions.”