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(LEAD) Moon looks to early resumption of U.S.-N.K talks

North Korea 15:56 March 04, 2019

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional information in paras 15-19; ADDS photo)
By Byun Duk-kun

SEOUL, March 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korean President Moon Jae-in expressed confidence on Monday that the United States and North Korea will eventually reach an agreement on denuclearization, telling his top security officials to find ways to help narrow the gap between the two sides.

"I believe the North Korea-U.S. negotiations will reach an agreement in the end, but I ask you to work for an early resumption of working-level dialogue between the two because we do not want the stalemate to be prolonged," the president said in a National Security Council (NSC) meeting held at his office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul.

The NSC meeting was the first to be chaired by the president in nearly nine months.

It came four days after the second meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un failed to reach an agreement.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon at the start of a National Security Council Meeting held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on March 4, 2019. (Yonhap)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) shakes hands with Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon at the start of a National Security Council Meeting held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on March 4, 2019. (Yonhap)

In a press conference shortly after their meeting in Hanoi, Trump said the North demanded all U.S. and international sanctions be lifted in their entirety but only offered to give up its well-known nuclear facilities in Yongbyon.

The U.S. president made it clear that there are more nuclear facilities or weapons the North must dismantle to reach complete denuclearization.

Moon said the second Trump-Kim meeting in Hanoi was still a success.

"The second North Korea-U.S. summit, though it is very disappointing in its result, was a chance to confirm the very meaningful progress that has been made through dialogue between the two countries," he said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.

Moon also stressed that the fact both Washington and Pyongyang have refrained from escalating tension, even after their failure to reach an agreement, suggested the possibility of progress in the future.

The South Korean president noted the summit hinted at the prospect of permanently shutting down the Yongbyon facilities, which he said would mean the North's denuclearization process entering a phase of no-return.

"First, complete shutdown of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities was discussed. Permanently dismantling the Yongbyon facilities, which are the backbone of North Korea's nuclear program, under the observation and inspection of the United States has come into view," he said.

"Should the Yongbyon nuclear facilities that include plutonium reprocessing facilities and uranium enrichment facilities be fully and completely dismantled, North Korea's denuclearization process could be said to have entered an irreversible stage," the president added.

To this end, Moon told his top security officials to seek ways to narrow the difference between the U.S. and North Korea.

"First, I ask you to accurately identify the difference that prevented the two sides from reaching an agreement at the latest North Korea-U.S. summit and find ways to narrow that difference," he said.

In a telephone conversation made shortly after his Hanoi summit, Trump asked Moon to help narrow the gap between his country and North Korea by speaking with the North Korean side first and then letting him know the outcome of the inter-Korean dialogue.

President Moon noted one way to promote future dialogue may be improving his country's own relations with the communist North.

"Second, I ask you to actively find ways to assist North Korea-U.S. dialogue by developing inter-Korean relations within the boundaries of sanctions. In addition, I ask you to prepare for (the start) of inter-Korean cooperation projects that were reached under the Panmunjom Declaration and Pyongyang Declaration," Moon said.

The South Korean president earlier proposed the U.S. use inter-Korean economic cooperation as one of its options in rewarding North Korea for its denuclearization steps.

Resuming or launching inter-Korean cooperation projects under the two inter-Korean summit declarations may help relieve some difficulties facing the impoverished North while also encouraging Pyongyang to more actively denuclearize, Moon has said.

The South Korean president has held three bilateral summits with the North Korean leader, with the latest meeting held in the North Korean capital in September.

"We hope the two countries will continue their dialogue and that their two leaders will meet again in the near future and reach the agreement that they failed to reach this time," Moon told the NSC meeting.


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