(LEAD) Seoul to prepare for tangible achievements in inter-Korean ties
(ATTN: ADDS ministry official's comments in paras 7-9)
SEOUL, July 30 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will continue to make preparations toward producing tangible achievements in inter-Korean ties, despite stalemated relations between two Koreas, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
"We will continue to make efforts to improve inter-Korean relations, including the implementation of South-North join declarations," the ministry said in a report submitted to the National Assembly, referring to summit agreements their leaders signed last year.
"We will consistently send a message to North Korea for the improvement of inter-Korean relations ... and make preparations so as to produce tangible achievements in areas that need discussions between the two Koreas," the ministry added.
Inter-Korean relations have not progressed much in recent months with major cross-border projects on hold, apparently affected by a lack of progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington since their no-deal summit in February.
North Korea is even refusing to accept South Korea's food aid through the World Food Programme, expressing displeasure with Seoul's plan to go ahead with its joint military exercise with the U.S. next month.
"We will focus on confirming the North's official stance on our rice assistance plan through the WFP and review and take relevant procedures going forward," the ministry said.
A ministry official told reporters that all necessary preparatory steps, including getting the sanctions exemptions needed to deliver the assistance, have not moved forward as the ministry is still waiting to hear from the WFP on the North's stance.
He noted, however, that the WFP is saying that discussions are still under way with North Korea on the rice provision. Seoul wants the first shipment of the rice assistance to be made before the end of July with an aim to complete the delivery by September.
"It appears unlikely to send the first shipment this month but we adhere to the objective to finalize the delivery by September," he said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said that it will also provide continued support for the North and the United States to resume their agreed-upon working-level talks on denuclearization as soon as possible.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump held a surprise meeting last month at the inter-Korean border and agreed to resume nuclear talks within a few weeks.
The meeting was expected to be held in mid-July but North Korea has apparently not responded to Washington's subsequent offer for dialogue. On Monday (Washington time), U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he's hopeful working-level talks with North Korea will resume "very soon."
The ministry said that it will keep working to strengthen the "virtuous circle" between progress in the North's denuclearization, relations between Pyongyang and Washington and advance in inter-Korean ties.
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