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(LEAD) S. Korea to discuss with U.S. preparatory work to resume Kaesong, Kumgang projects

All News 16:32 March 05, 2019

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, throughout with minister's remarks)

SEOUL, March 5 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will talk to the United States about preparatory work for the future resumption of two key inter-Korean economic projects and about waiving sanctions on North Korea if necessary, Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said Tuesday.

Cho made the remarks a day after he reported to President Moon Jae-in that the government will discuss with the U.S. ways to resume a long-suspended tour program to the North's Mount Kumgang and reopen an industrial complex in the North's border city of Kaesong.

South Korea is considering these measures as part of efforts to keep the dialogue momentum alive and create better conditions for negotiations after last week's breakdown of the second summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

"After no agreement was reached (at the Trump-Kim summit), many people forecast that the Kaesong and Kumgang projects became harder (to restart) but there's still a lot of work to do at the current stage in preparation for their future resumption," Cho said in a seminar at the National Assembly.

Possible preparatory work includes a visit by South Korean businessmen to the Kaesong complex to check their factory facilities left behind when the park was shut down in 2016. Cho said he believes such a visit can take without violating sanctions.

Other ideas include repairing facilities at the Mount Kumgang resort, he said.

"Tourism is not itself subject to sanctions, but a full-fledged resumption (of the Mount Kumgang tour program) will require much preparation to repair facilities since they have been closed for a long time," Cho said. "To that end, it is necessary to ease sanctions in some areas."

"With all these things in mind, we are considering taking a phased approach. ... We have a plan to resolve (the issue) through consultations with the United Nations' sanctions committee, the U.S. or the international community," he added.

(LEAD) S. Korea to discuss with U.S. preparatory work to resume Kaesong, Kumgang projects - 1

South Korea shut down the industrial park in 2016 after North Korea's missile and nuclear provocations. Tours to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast were suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean solider.

The leaders of the two Koreas agreed in September to resume the two projects when conditions are met. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that he is willing to restart the cross-border projects without any preconditions.

Washington, however, has been wary over their resumption, fearing they could undermine the global sanctions regime against Pyongyang at a time when denuclearization talks are under way.

Seoul has denied a trip to the Kaesong industrial park by South Korean businesspeople who used to operate plants there in apparent consideration of these concerns.

The government had hoped that Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump would produce a deal in last week's summit that could ease sanctions on Pyongyang, but they failed to reach an agreement, which experts said darkens the prospect of them being immediately resumed.

Earlier, a ministry official told reporters that the government will consult with the U.S. to restart the two major economic cooperation projects as their resumption will contribute to peace and the denuclearization process.


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