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(LEAD) Moon urges U.S. to lower bar for dialogue with N. Korea

All Headlines 16:16 February 26, 2018

(ATTN: CHANGES headline, lead paras; UPDATES with additional remarks from Moon, more information and background in paras 2-9; RESTRUCTURES)

SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday the United States should lower its bar for bilateral talks with North Korea, adding that it is important to have such dialogue moving forward first.

"The United States needs to lower its bar for dialogue and the North, too, must show its willingness to denuclearize," the president said while meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong at his Seoul office, Cheong Wa Dae.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong before the start of their meeting at the South Korean presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Feb. 26, 2018. (Yonhap)

"It is important so that the U.S. and North Korea may sit down face to face," Moon added, according to his spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom.

The remarks came one day after the South Korean president held a surprising meeting with Kim Yong-chol, a senior official of the North's ruling Workers' Party who is believed to have masterminded a 2010 attack against a South Korean naval warship that killed 46 sailors.

Kim, who is currently heading an eight-member North Koran delegation to the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, was quoted as saying that his country has "enough" willingness to hold talks with the United States.

It marked the first affirmative gesture from the communist state toward the U.S. in months, if not years. Just hours earlier on the same day, the North's Korea Asia-Pacific Peace Committee said there will be no face-to-face meeting with officials from the Donald Trump administration "in 100 or even 200 years."

Washington said later on Sunday it will first see if Kim's message represented the North's first step toward denuclearization.

The possibility of talks between the U.S. and North Korea follows the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue last month after a two-year hiatus.

They were largely aimed at discussing the North's participation in the PyeongChang Olympic Games that ended Sunday, but Moon has repeatedly insisted the recent rapprochement between the divided Koreas may well lead a resumption of talks between the U.S. and North Korea, as well as multilateral negotiations on ending North Korea's nuclear ambition.

"Recently, North Korea has been showing a willingness to actively seek North Korea-U.S. dialogue while the U.S., too, is talking about the need for dialogue," Moon told Liu, according to his spokesman.

He asked for China's support to realize U.S.-North Korea talks at an early date.

The South Korean leader promised full support for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, which he earlier called a chance to promote peace and stability in the northeast Asian region.

"Now the Olympic flag has been handed over to China ... I pray for the success of the Beijing Olympics, and South Korea will do its utmost to help in any way to ensure the success of the Beijing Olympics," Moon said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

He also expressed gratitude toward China's support for the PyeongChang Olympic Games.

"I appreciate the fact that the vice premier came to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games as a special envoy. It has been a great help to the success of our PyeongChang Olympic Games that China sent premier-level delegations to the closing ceremony, as well as the opening ceremony," he told Liu.


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