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Summary of inter-Korean news this week

All News 16:00 September 04, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 4 (Yonhap) -- The following is a summary of inter-Korean news this week.

Unification ministry requests 3.1 pct increase in 2021 budget for inter-Korean projects

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry said Tuesday that it requested a 3.1 percent increase in its budget for cooperation projects with North Korea next year despite stalled cross-border exchanges amid chilled relations.

The ministry asked for 1.24 trillion won (US$1.05 billion) in next year's budget for the Inter-Korean Cooperation Fund, up 37.7 billion won from the 1.21 trillion won set aside for this year.

The proposed increase mostly stemmed from the ministry's plans to expand cross-border cooperation in combating infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus, and natural disasters that could affect people on both sides, the ministry said.

Unification minister calls for Japan's support in improving inter-Korean relations

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young called Tuesday for Japan's support in improving inter-Korean relations, saying it will be "very beneficial for Japan as well."

Lee made the remark during his first meeting with Japanese Ambassador Koji Tomita after his inauguration in July, stressing the need for the two countries to maintain cooperation in the wake of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's recent decision to step down.

"Prime Minister Abe has announced his decision to step down due to health concerns. Our government is sorry to hear about this and wishes him a speedy recovery," Lee said at the start of the meeting.

S. Korea-U.S. working group useful, function can be adjusted: Cheong Wa Dae official

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- A top Cheong Wa Dae official said Wednesday the South Korea-U.S. working group on North Korea is "useful," and discussions are under way on how to better operate it.

The remarks by President Moon Jae-in's top security adviser, Suh Hoon, during a National Assembly session came in response to talk of negative effects of the forum launched in 2018.

The working group's main aim is for the allies to coordinate efforts more effectively to achieve the denuclearization of Korea and bring lasting peace to the peninsula, as strategies on Pyongyang have at times been a source of thinly-veiled rifts between the two sides.

Unification minister hopes for inter-Korean video reunions of separated families

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young on Wednesday voiced hopes the two Koreas could hold video reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War later this month, despite strained inter-Korean relations.

Lee made the remark during his meeting with Shin Hee-yong, the new chief of the Korean Red Cross, saying the South is ready to send North Korea video reunion equipment as soon as Pyongyang decides to hold reunions on the occasion of the Chuseok holiday set for late this month.

"Video reunions of separated families might be our only option in the age of 'untact' and when the coronavirus is spreading. I hope we can kick off video reunions over the Chuseok holiday, which can serves as a catalyst," Lee said, referring to the non-contact trend amid the coronavirus pandemic.

S. Korea mulls redeeming money given to WFP for stalled N.K. rice provision project

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- The unification ministry said Thursday that it is considering redeeming the money it sent to the World Food Programme (WFP) for a plan to provide rice assistance to North Korea if there is no progress in the stalled project by the end of this year.

In June last year, the ministry announced the plan to provide 50,000 tons of rice to North Korea through the WFP and sent the organization 13.8 billion won (US$11.6 million) to cover transportation, equipment and monitoring costs.

The plan, however, has since been stalled as the North rejected the assistance offer in protest over joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States.

N.K. unlikely to seek engagement with Seoul until next year's campaign season: ex-USFK commander

SEOUL, Sept. 3 (Yonhap) -- North Korea is unlikely to seek engagement with South Korea until next year as the regime believes it would have better leverage to deal with Seoul after the country's presidential election season kicks off, former U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) Commander Gen. Vincent Brooks said Thursday.

During the third and the final session of the annual Seoul Defense Dialogue (SDD), Brooks also called for both maximum pressure on and engagement with North Korea while moving away from classic views about what steps Pyongyang will take in the future.

"In 2021, the South Korean government is in its final year, and campaigning is ongoing. North Korea will be going to wait until 2021 before they begin to engage South Korea. South Korea will continue to try, of course, but I think there would be limited responses, and likely negative responses until such times, as North Korea thinks they have better leverage," Brooks said.

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