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S. Korea watching for possible N. Korea message on cross-border ties

North Korea 13:54 January 07, 2020

SEOUL, Jan. 7 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will closely watch for North Korea issuing a separate message to the South later this month after leader Kim Jong-un made no mention of inter-Korean relations in his New Year's Day message, a government official said Tuesday.

The North has usually issued a message to the South in the form of a statement of plea to the whole Korean people after mid-January following a joint meeting of the ruling party, the government and relevant groups every year, the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.

"We will closely observe whether North Korea issues a separate message for the South," he added.

At a key party meeting at the end of last year, Kim offered policy directions on key domestic and diplomatic issues, including his stance on denuclearization talks with the United States, but made no mention of South Korea in the remarks seen as a replacement of his annual speech on the first day of the year.

It is rare for the North Korean leader not to mention the South in a New Year's Day message. Last year, Kim devoted a portion of his address on cross-border ties apparently bolstered by his three summit talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018.

Inter-Korean relations have been stalled amid a lack of progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

North Korea has blamed South Korea for dragging its feet in pushing for cross-border projects in the face of sanctions led by the U.S. The North has also been unresponsive to Seoul's offers for talks.

Experts see Pyongyang appears to be trying to concentrate on resolving its nuclear standoff with Washington in the belief that any progress on that front would lead to advances in inter-Korean ties.


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