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(LEAD) Seoul says N.K. leader's visit this year is still possible

All Headlines 16:51 November 19, 2018

(ATTN: ADDS relevant moves and photo in last seven paras)

SEOUL, Nov. 19 (Yonhap) -- It is still possible that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un could visit the South this year despite a delay in denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang, the unification ministry said Monday.

"We will make preparations to make the agreements that the South and the North agreed upon, including Kim's trip to the South, take place without a hitch within this year," Baik Tae-hyun, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing.

In a September summit in Pyongyang, Kim promised to visit South Korea "at an early date." South Korean President Moon Jae-in later said that his planned trip could be possible within this year should all things proceed without a problem.

Stalled denuclearization talks between the U.S. and North Korea, however, have prompted speculation that Kim's first-ever visit to the South could be delayed, along with major cooperative projects the two Koreas agreed to launch before the end of this year.

Washington and Pyongyang are currently pushing to rearrange their recently canceled high-level talks to discuss the nuclear issue and preparations for their possible second summit.

The spokesman said that he knows that consultations are underway between the U.S. and North Korea to determine the schedules for their high-level talks but declined to comment further, saying that it is a matter that needs to be worked out by those countries.

He still expressed hope that progress in denuclearization talks could help speed up the peace process on the Korean Peninsula.

This file photo provided by the Korean Central News Agency on Sept. 21, 2018, shows the leaders of the two Koreas and their wives posing on top of Mount Paekdu, the highest mountain of the Korean Peninsula. (For Use Only in the Republic of Korea. No Redistribution) (Yonhap)

Meanwhile, Chung Dong-young, chairman of the liberal Party for Democracy and Peace, said that an address by North Korean leader Kim at South Korea's National Assembly should be arranged if his Seoul visit takes place.

"Kim's declaration of denuclearization and a new vision of state strategies in an address to the National Assembly will mark a new turning point on the Korean Peninsula," Chung said in a party leadership meeting.

"The issue was discussed during a dinner meeting between National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang and leaders of five major political parties on Nov. 16 and conservative opposition parties didn't express negative or opposing views on Kim's parliamentary speech," he said.

Chung then stressed that the North's leader must keep his promise with President Moon Jae-in to visit South Korea within this year and that such a visit would also be beneficial to the North.

In a related move, a group of 24 members of the Jeju provincial council said they have presented a motion for a resolution calling for the leaders of the two Koreas to together visit the southern resort island's Mount Halla during Kim's future visit to South Korea.

The Jeju councilors also expressed support for the fourth summit between Moon and Kim and called for the Seoul government's all-out efforts for complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Mount Halla, at 1,947 meters, is the highest mountain in South Korea. Moon and Kim together traveled to Mount Paekdu, the highest mountain of North Korea, after their third summit meeting in Pyongyang in September.


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