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(LEAD) Seoul thinks it is still possible for N.K. leader to visit S. Korea this year

North Korea 11:51 December 03, 2018

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SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Yonhap) -- It is still possible for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to visit South Korea before the end of this year, the unification ministry said Monday, adding the government continues to make relevant preparations.

"We remain unchanged in our stance that (Kim's visit) will be possible and necessary before the end of this year," Baik Tae-hyun, a ministry spokesman, told a regular press briefing. "We will calmly make the relevant preparations and efforts for agreements reached between the two Koreas to be carried out without a problem."

During a third summit in Pyongyang in September, Kim promised to make a trip to the South "at an early date" in return for President Moon's visit to the North's capital.

It has been expected that the North Korean leader could come to the South before the end of the year, but skepticism has mounted that the visit would take place as proposed amid stalled denuclearization talks between the North and the United States.

During a summit with Moon in Argentina last week, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a green light to the envisioned visit taking place before a second summit between him and the North's leader, saying Kim's trip to South Korea would help create fresh momentum for efforts to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Meanwhile, with regard to the recently launched joint railway inspection with the North, Baik said that things are going forward without any major problem.

On Friday, a South Korean train left for North Korea, launching an 18-day inspection of railways there as part of efforts to eventually connect rail lines over the border, a project their leaders agreed on earlier.

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