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(LEAD) Unification minister calls for early resumption of dialogue with N. Korea

All News 11:16 August 31, 2021

(ATTN: ADDS U.N. chief's remarks in last 3 paras)
By Koh Byung-joon

SEOUL, Aug. 31 (Yonhap) -- Unification Minister Lee In-young called Tuesday for the early resumption of talks with North Korea, saying dialogue is the only way toward achieving objectives that everyone wants.

Lee made the appeal in an opening speech for the Korean Global Forum for Peace, an annual forum organized by the unification ministry, also urging North Korea to come out for talks on inter-Korean cooperation in humanitarian areas.

"Even without perfect conditions for dialogue, the South, the North and the United States should first open their (communication) channels, sit down together and resume talks, as dialogue is the only way toward achieving objectives they want," Lee said.

"The table for dialogue and negotiations never lies far away, nor does the path toward building fundamental trust that can remove long hostility through dialogue," he added. "But we don't have as much time as we want."

Nuclear talks between Washington and Pyongyang have remained stalemated since the Hanoi summit between then U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without a deal in 2019.

With the stalemated nuclear talks, inter-Korean ties have also chilled with North Korea not responding to Seoul's repeated offers for dialogue.

Lee hoped North Korea would have dialogue on cooperation in humanitarian areas as it is facing challenges from the coronavirus pandemic and global sanctions.

"The world is faced with protracted threats from COVID-19, climate change and others that cannot be addressed by a single country," Lee said. "I think North Korea also has a need for cooperation in the food, health and medical sectors due to COVID-19, sanctions and natural disasters."

Lee called for "bolder and more flexible" applications of sanctions on North Korea in a way that fosters cooperation in humanitarian areas.

He also promised to provide more support to civilian and international organizations for their humanitarian projects for North Korea.

In a video message to the forum, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said peace and dialogue are prerequisites to tackling such global issues as the coronavirus and climate change, and promised to provide support for inter-Korean cooperation.

"Challenges like COVID-19 and climate change, for example, do not respect borders. Addressing these challenges demands peace, dialogue and collaboration," the U.N. chief said.

"The United Nations stands ready to support initiatives that can bring people together across the border in dialogue, collaboration and common interests, and take steps toward forging lasting peace for people across the peninsula," he said.

Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks at the Korean Global Forum for Peace in Seoul on Aug. 31, 2021. (Yonhap)


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