By Kim Seung-yeon
SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) -- North Korea and the United States ought to first agree on how to define the terms of denuclearization if they are to move the stalled nuclear talks forward, the head of a Sweden-based think tank said Monday.
Dan Smith, director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), made the case as hopes have risen that the U.S. and the North could resume the nuclear talks that have been stalled since February's no-deal summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
"The definition of denuclearization is a big thing to be worked out. Everybody can agree they want peace, but on what terms? What does anybody mean by the one of the most important single words on this whole issue that has not been clarified?" he told a media conference in Seoul.
Smith said he believes North Korea is sincere about the nuclear talks.
Differences over the scopes of Pyongyang's denuclearization and sanctions relief by Washington led to the collapse of February's summit in Hanoi.
Last week, North Korea said it is willing to resume the nuclear talks in late September and urged Washington to come up with a "new calculation method" acceptable to Pyongyang.
Asked about South Korea's role in the process, Smith suggested Seoul stay in line with U.S. policy toward North Korea and continue efforts to revive and enhance inter-Korean exchanges despite the current deadlock.
"It needs to achieve a fine balance between simultaneously aligning itself with U.S. policy and encouraging the U.S. policy into the most peace-positive form. The definitive key to unlock the problems does not lie in South Korea's hands. It lies much more in American hands," he said.
"South Korea is in a difficult position. But it needs to be available to take concrete actions in trade, cultural exchange, or other forms of bilateral cooperation, to maintain the momentum," he said.
Touching on the departure from office of Trump's hawkish advisor John Bolton, Smith said he does not necessarily see it as a "green light" to denuclearization, but rather "an obstacle removed."
"(It) might be regarded as lights being changed from red to amber, get ready to go to the negotiations."
To that end, the Trump administration appears to be more pragmatic with its realistic approach toward a peaceful solution, he said.
In January, SIPRI co-hosted a three-day working-level meeting between the top nuclear envoys of the United States and the two Koreas before February's summit between Trump and Kim. But Smith said there have been no prospects for SIPRI to be hosting the expected talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
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