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(2nd LD) Cheong Wa Dae hails NK leader's address

All News 23:34 January 01, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with foreign minister's remark in last two paras)

SEOUL, Jan. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office welcomed the New Year's address by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, saying it reflects his wish for the development of inter-Korean ties and Pyongyang-Washington relations.

"Chairman Kim's firm commitment is expected to have a positive effect on resolving the Korean Peninsula issue smoothly in the new year," Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said.

In the half-hour televised speech, the North's leader expressed his willingness to meet again with U.S. President Donald Trump for denuclearization talks.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) said it "brightens the prospects" for upcoming negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington.

For its own part, the liberal party will do its best, together with the Moon Jae-in administration, for "epoch-making" progress in efforts for lasting peace on the peninsula, according to its spokesman, Hong Ik-pyo.

But the conservative opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) downplayed Kim's statement.

"There was no progress expected in the position on North Korea's denuclearization," the LKP leader, Kim Byong-joon, said.

He said that the North's leader, who wants his nation to be recognized as a nuclear power, rather called for incentives, including the lifting of sanctions, and even threatened to jettison negotiations.

The party's spokesman, Yoon Young-seok, said later that it's "impossible" to resume the operation of the Kaesong industrial complex and a tour program to Mount Kumgang without "substantive progress" in dismantling North Korea's nuclear program.

Later in the day, Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said preparations have been under way to arrange the second summit between Trump and Kim, without elaborating on the details.

"As far as I know, preparations have been under way to arrange the second North Korea-U.S. summit," Kang said in a late-night television program. "But the real negotiations begin when (the two sides) actually sit at the table."


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