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(3rd LD) Cheong Wa Dae holds special NSC meeting over inter-Korean dialogue

Politics 18:21 March 22, 2019

(ATTN: ADDS political parties' reactions in last 7 paras)

SEOUL, March 22 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae held an emergency meeting of its National Security Council (NSC) on Friday, hours after North Korea pulled out its officials from a joint liaison office with South Korea in its border town of Kaesong.

The NSC meeting, held at Cheong Wa Dae, was chaired by Chung Eui-yong, the top security adviser to President Moon Jae-in, according to Cheong Wa Dae.

"The standing members of the NSC discussed the North's withdrawal from the joint liaison office and related measures," it said in a short statement.

When asked to comment, Cheong Wa Dae spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom said the government did not have anything else to offer at the time, only noting that the unification ministry earlier issued a statement.

In a press briefing, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said the North's withdrawal was "regrettable" and expressed hope that the country will return to the liaison office at an early date.

"Because the government's position has been adequately explained in the vice unification minister's press conference, Cheong Wa Dae has nothing else to add," the Cheong Wa Dae spokesman told reporters.

The pullout follows what many believe to be the collapse of denuclearization negotiations between the United States and North Korea.

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un held their second summit in Hanoi last month, but the meeting ended without a much anticipated deal.

Washington has since been looking to Seoul to help coordinate a deal with Pyongyang.

Cheong Wa Dae officials earlier said the country was in dialogue with the North through "various" channels.

The possible shutdown of the joint liaison office may still hinder its efforts to persuade the North back to the dialogue table.

The joint liaison office opened in September under a summit agreement reached at Moon's first inter-Korean summit with the North Korean leader in April last year.

Moon and Kim held two more bilateral summits in May and September.

In their third and latest summit in Pyongyang, Kim agreed to reciprocate Moon's trip to the North Korean capital with a visit to South Korea.

South Korean political parties expressed regrets over the North's abrupt withdrawal from the liaison office in a rare show of bipartisanship.

"We hope that North Korea will actively respond to the efforts for dialogue and cooperation to foster peace on the peninsula with respect for the 80 million Koreans yearning for peace and the will of the international community," Lee Hae-sik, a spokesperson of the ruling Democratic Party, told reporters.

"The Democratic Party and the Moon Jae-in administration will spare no efforts to ensure that dialogue between the two Koreas and between the North and the U.S. will resume quickly," he added.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party rebuked the North for its "unilateral" withdrawal and raised questions over Moon's capacity to mediate between Washington and Pyongyang.

The minor opposition Party for Democracy and Peace called for the Seoul government to act quickly to grasp the North's intentions and keep the situation from worsening.

"We hope that the liaison office will be back up and running quickly with the North's prompt return," Park Ju-hyun, a spokeswoman for the party, said in a written commentary.

The minor Justice Party also called for Seoul's "prudent yet swift" response in handling the situation.


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