By Koh Byung-joon
SEOUL, Sept. 18 (Yonhap) -- South and North Korea could discuss practical ways to ease military tensions as a way to provide a security guarantee demanded by Pyongyang in its denuclearization talks with the United States, a high-ranking unification ministry official said Wednesday.
North Korea and the United States are likely to resume working-level nuclear talks soon, after February's summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal over differences on how to match Pyongyang's denuclearization steps with corresponding measures by Washington.
Earlier this week, the North renewed its demand for a security guarantee and sanctions relief, saying it can discuss denuclearization only after threats to the regime are fully removed.
"The concept of a security guarantee is quite comprehensive. It compasses political stability, normalization of diplomatic relations, easing of economic sanctions and a (security) guarantee in the military sector," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
"There is much more work to be done by the South and the North when it comes to easing military tensions in a practical way and building trust," he added. "In that sense, inter-Korean relations have a role to play in the issue of a security guarantee (for North Korea)."
The remarks were in response to a question about skepticism over what role South Korean can play at a time when inter-Korean relations are regarded as a subordinate factor in nuclear talks.
Inter-Korean relations have been all but stalled, apparently hamstrung by the sanctions Washington vows to keep in place until the North's complete denuclearization. North Korea has accused the South of caring too much about what the U.S. says and has not responded to Seoul's offers of talks, cooperative projects and even food assistance in recent months.
This is in contrast with the peace mood last year surrounding three inter-Korean summits between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and the North Korean leader, including the latest one in September.
Pyongyang has accused South Korea of being hypocritical in conducting a joint military drill with the U.S., which it sees as a rehearsal for invasion, while talking about peace and stability. It has heightened tensions by conducting a series of weapons tests in protest.
The ministry official expected the key issues to be discussed during the upcoming talks to include how to define the range of denuclearization and what corresponding measures would be offered to the North, which he said would be a "daunting task" that cannot be resolved in a single meeting.
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