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N. Korea, U.S. can narrow differences on denuclearization: Seoul official

All Headlines 15:56 May 30, 2018

SEOUL, May 30 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States have differences on how to achieve denuclearization but the gap could be bridged, Seoul's unification minister said Wednesday.

In a speech at an event in central Seoul attended by ambassadors from European countries, Cho Myoung-gyon emphasized that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un remains strongly committed to denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula.

"I can say that the differences in stances between North Korea and the U.S. remain quite significant. It will not be easy to narrow the gap and find common ground but I think it would not be impossible," he said.

"Now that the leaders of the two countries are engaging in talks in a top-down manner, I think the chances are high that common ground can be found," he added.

A flurry of diplomacy is currently under way between the two countries to prepare for a summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un U.S. President Donald Trump. The summit is expected to be held in Singapore on June 12, as originally agreed upon.

North Korea and the U.S. have been in discord over how fast Pyongyang should give up its nuclear weapons program, a seemingly unbridgeable gap over which the two countries saw their planned summit almost collapse last week.

The U.S. wants swift and irreversible denuclearization, while the North has reportedly said that it wants phased and synchronized steps toward abandoning its nuclear weapons.

Cho said that it is understandable that skepticism lingers over the real intention of the North in attending talks, given the past history of negotiations with Pyongyang.

However, he said the North's recent steps, such as a missile and nuclear test moratorium and the dismantling of its only known nuclear test site, demonstrate its commitment to denuclearization.

Saying that the North is seeking regime safety from the U.S. in return for its abandonment of nuclear weapons, Cho also said that the Seoul government thinks it is "desirable" for them to make a big deal on the two fronts and implement relevant agreements "in a comprehensive manner."

He noted that it is just beginning of what would be a long-haul process of denuclearization fraught with many challenges going forward.

"I can say that we have just entered the gate of denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," Cho said. "There will be many challenges that need to be overcome."

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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