By Lee Haye-ah
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10 (Yonhap) -- South Korean and U.S. officials held talks in Seoul on Monday to continue close coordination on North Korea, including on inter-Korean cooperation and humanitarian issues, the State Department said.
The "working group" meeting came as Seoul looks to expand cooperation with Pyongyang to facilitate the resumption of denuclearization negotiations between the North and the U.S.
U.S. Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Alex Wong "led the U.S. delegation at the February 10th U.S.-ROK Working Group meeting as part of our continued close coordination with our ally the Republic of Korea on issues related to North Korea, including inter-Korean cooperation and humanitarian issues," a State Department spokesperson told Yonhap News Agency. Wong was in Seoul to meet with officials from the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae, the foreign ministry and the unification ministry "to discuss continued U.S.-ROK coordination on achieving our shared goals of complete denuclearization and bringing lasting peace to the Korean Peninsula," the spokesperson added.
The working group meeting was led on the South Korean side by Rhee Dong-yeol, director general of the foreign ministry's Korean Peninsula peace regime bureau.
Rhee outlined Seoul's plans to allow individual tourists to visit North Korea, reconnect railways and roads across the border, and turn the Demilitarized Zone into a peace zone, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Rhee stressed that the individual trips will proceed from a humanitarian perspective, not for business, to provide opportunities for reunions of family members separated since the 1950-53 Korean War, one source said.
The tourism plan was cited by President Moon Jae-in last month as an example of inter-Korean cooperation that does not violate United Nations sanctions on the North.
The unification ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, repeated Monday that the issue is not subject to consultations between South Korea and the U.S., but that Seoul will explain its position to its ally.
Five years after its full nuke armament claim, N. Korea's threat becomes real, further complicated
(News Focus) S. Korea grapples with calls for nuclear armament
Talk of 'normalizing' GSOMIA raises hope, skepticism around Seoul-Tokyo ties
S. Korea, U.S., Japan close ranks amid growing N.K. threats
N. Korea says month-old virus crisis under control, but skepticism lingers