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Unification minister proposes U.S., N. Korea consider 'Olympics armistice'

All Headlines 04:45 November 15, 2019

WASHINGTON, Nov. 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul has proposed that the United States and North Korea consider reaching an "Olympics armistice" next year under which the U.S. would suspend military exercises with South Korea and the North would suspend missile tests.

Kim made the proposal in an interview with The Washington Post published Thursday, saying he plans to bring ideas for breaking the impasse in U.S.-North Korea denuclearization negotiations when he travels to the U.S. capital next week.

This file photo shows South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul. (Yonhap)

He said he believes the two countries will resume negotiations before the end of the year, and added: "If they miss this opportunity, the situation and the environment will get more difficult, and it will become more difficult for us to solve the issues."

The Olympics armistice would coincide with the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, marking another milestone in the on-again, off-again diplomatic process aimed at dismantling the North's nuclear weapons program.

Last year, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un sent a delegation to the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, paving the way for inter-Korean dialogue and then the resumption of denuclearization negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang.

The minister also said he wants the U.S. and North Korea to focus on confidence-building measures, including by considering easing the U.S. travel ban on North Korea for Korean-Americans with relatives in the North, according to The Post.

But Kim's main message is that progress on North Korea's denuclearization must go hand-in-hand with progress in inter-Korean relations, and that the two Koreas and the U.S. must all work to improve relations, the paper said.

"So if all of these three relations could make some positive progress and create a virtuous cycle, then we can make successful progress with North Korean denuclearization," the minister was quoted as saying.

hague@yna.co.kr
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