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Unification minister nominee calls for progress in inter-Korean relations to bolster nuclear talks

North Korea 10:23 March 26, 2019

SEOUL, March 26 (Yonhap) -- Unification minister nominee Kim Yeon-chul said Tuesday that it is necessary for the two Koreas to deepen relations in order to move denuclearization talks between North Korea and the United States forward and establish lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Speaking at his confirmation hearing, Kim also vowed to seek close coordination with Washington and the international community in seeking to deepen cross-border relations and find a solution to the nuclear conundrum.

"What is important for now is to get the North Korea-U.S. negotiations restarted at an early date to make sure that the hard-won Korean Peninsula denuclearization and peace process won't lose momentum," Kim told lawmakers at the start of his confirmation hearing. "To this end, our role is very important."

"In order to encourage the resumption of North Korea-U.S. dialogue and help lasting peace take root, it is necessary to deepen South-North Korea relations in a consistent manner," he added.

Unification minister nominee calls for progress in inter-Korean relations to bolster nuclear talks - 1

Kim, professor and chief of the Seoul-based Korea Institute for National Unification think tank, is known for his support for more active inter-Korean economic cooperation and criticism of sanctions imposed on North Korea, saying that such restrictions have not been effective in forcing North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Since the breakdown of last month's summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump, South Korea has intensified its push to play a role of mediator between Pyongyang and Washington by bridging a gap in their demands and keeping stalled denuclearization talks going.

Seoul wants to push for various cross-border projects with North Korea on the hope that they could encourage Pyongyang to return to the negotiating table. Reopening a shuttered industrial complex, in the North's border town of Kaesong, and restarting tours to Mount Kumgang, on the country's east coast, have been frequently cited as possible cooperation.

Washington, however, balks at such projects as their resumption could undermine the global sanctions regime against Pyongyang at a time when little progress has been made in denuclearization talks.

Kim did not mention the Kaesong industrial complex and Mount Kumgang tours but noted that he will work hard to achieve "genuine unity" by pursuing "various cooperation methods."

He emphasized that he will do his best to address humanitarian challenges facing families separated by the 1950-53 Korea War.

Emphasizing South Korea's role, Kim still noted that he will seek close coordination with the U.S. and the international community in pushing for cross-border cooperation and ridding the North of its nuclear weapons program.

"Through close consultation between South Korea and the U.S., (we) will try to find a solution to denuclearization, while securing wider support from the international community for progress in inter-Korean relations and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula," he said.

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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