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Unification minister urges N.K. to return to negotiating table within this year

North Korea 15:12 August 18, 2021

SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young urged North Korea on Wednesday to come back to the negotiating table within this year, voicing concerns that upcoming political events in the region could slow down the peace process with Pyongyang.

During his keynote speech at a symposium in Seoul, Lee stressed the importance for the two Koreas and the U.S. to resume dialogue before the end of this year to bring "sustainable peace."

"It is highly likely that the momentum for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula will weaken due to the impact of other factors, including South Korea's presidential election schedule that will be in full swing in the second half of this year, the U.S. midterm elections next year and the possible intensifying strategic competition between the U.S. and China," he said.

Lee also pointed out that international events, such as the upcoming 2021 G20 Rome summit and the Beijing Winter Olympics next year, could serve as an important opportunity to build trust and resume cooperation between the Koreas.

"We urge North Korea to come to the negotiating table at an early date with a flexible and proactive attitude to discuss denuclearization, sanctions relief, normalization of relations with the U.S. and improving inter-Korean relations," he said.

The North has refused to answer calls via the recently restored inter-Korean communication lines since last week in protest against the summertime military exercise between Seoul and Washington.

Nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and the North have been stalled since the Hanoi summit between former President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in 2019 ended without a deal.

This file photo shows Unification Minister Lee In-young as he holds a press conference at the government complex in Seoul on July 30, 2021. (Yonhap)

julesyi@yna.co.kr
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