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Unification minister says Moon-Biden summit creates 'sufficient' conditions for dialogue with N. Korea

North Korea 09:43 May 24, 2021

By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, May 24 (Yonhap) -- Last week's summit between President Moon Jae-in and U.S. President Joe Biden created "sufficient" conditions needed to resume the long-stalled dialogue with North Korea, Unification Minister Lee In-young said Monday.

On Friday (U.S. time), Moon and Biden held their first face-to-face summit in Washington and agreed to engage diplomatically with North Korea and take "pragmatic" steps to reduce tensions, while reaffirming that dialogue will be pushed based on previous agreements, including the 2018 Singapore deal between the North and the U.S.

Biden also announced his designation of Sung Kim, former U.S. ambassador to South Korea, as its special envoy on North Korea, a move seen as signaling that Washington is ready for dialogue with the North.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) holds talks with U.S. President Joe Biden at the Oval Office in the White House in Washington on May 21, 2021. (Yonhap)

"It has become clear that dialogue will be based on the North Korea-U.S. agreement in Singapore, which North Korea apparently has hoped for, and the U.S. designated its top nuclear envoy for the job, which is seen as signifying its willingness for dialogue," Lee told a local radio show.

"Taking all those things into account, (the Moon-Biden summit) served as a chance to generate sufficient conditions for South Korea, North Korea and the U.S. to create a virtuous circle of dialogue and work actively to improve their relations," he added.

In 2018, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and then U.S. President Donald Trump held their first summit in Singapore and agreed to work toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula in exchange for security guarantees from Washington.

Little progress, however, has been made since their second summit in early 2019, which fell apart as Pyongyang and Washington couldn't come to terms on denuclearization steps and sanctions relief. Inter-Korean relations have also been stalled amid stalemated nuclear talks.

The U.S. said it reached out to North Korea in mid-February but that the reclusive nation remained unresponsive. Washington is said to have recently offered to explain the outcome of its recently concluded North Korea policy review to the North, to which Pyongyang reportedly responded by saying the offer was "well received."

Lee expressed hope that the North will decide to resume dialogue.

"When the U.S. knocked on the door of North Korea in February, the North rejected it, but when it sought to explain the outcome of its policy review, the North did not," Lee said. "I think North Korea will look into the results of the South Korea-U.S. summit and make some kind of decision."

As for the possibility that the North would react negatively to an agreement reached during last week's summit to lift restrictions on South Korean missiles, Lee said that the issue should be seen as having nothing to do with the North and China but as a matter of "national defense" and "missile sovereignty."

The Feb. 1, 2021, file photo shows Unification Minister Lee In-young, South Korea's point man for inter-Korean relations, speaking to reporters at the government complex in Seoul. (Yonhap)

kokobj@yna.co.kr
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