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(2nd LD) U.S., S. Korea working to restart dialogue with N. Korea: Amb. Lee

Diplomacy 05:20 October 14, 2021

(ATTN: UPDATES with additional remarks from Amb. Lee in last 7 paras)
By Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and the United States are working closely together to restart the Korean Peninsula peace process, South Korea's ambassador to the U.S., Lee Soo-hyuck, said Wednesday.

Lee said the countries are also discussing ways to bring North Korea back to the dialogue table that may include the provision of humanitarian assistance to the impoverished North.

"(We) are discussing various ways to build trust such as the provision of humanitarian assistance to create a favorable condition for talks with North Korea," the South Korean diplomat said in a parliamentary audit.

"South Korea and the United States are also closely discussing ways to restart the peace process for the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and establishment of peace," he added.

South Korean Ambassador to the United States Lee Soo-hyuck (at podium) delivers his opening remarks at the start of an annual parliamentary audit at the South Korean Embassy in Washington on Oct. 13, 2021. (Yonhap)

Amb. Lee also said the U.S. understands what he called the rational purposefulness of seeking a formal end to the Korean War.

"I believe the U.S. is approaching the issue seriously and understands its rational purposefulness," he said when asked by a member of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 war during the United Nations General Assembly held last month in New York, insisting the move could help kickstart the denuclearization of the North by providing some assurances to Pyongyang over its security.

Pyongyang currently remains unresponsive to U.S. overtures, and has stayed away from denuclearization talks with the U.S. since early 2019.

The U.S. has said it supports providing humanitarian assistance to the people of North Korea regardless of any progress in denuclearization talks with the North.

The top national security advisers of South Korea and the U.S. earlier said their countries will continue to seek engagement with North Korea.

"The U.S. side reaffirmed the U.S.' sincerity that it holds no hostile policy toward North Korea and also reiterated its stance that it will engage in negotiations with North Korea anytime, anywhere without preconditions. The two sides agreed to continue working closely on concrete ways to engage with North Korea," South Korea's National Security Council said of a meeting between South Korean National Security Adviser Suh Hoon and his U.S. counterpart, Jake Sullivan, held in Washington on Tuesday.

Lee said the U.S., however, is not considering redeploying its tactical nuclear weapons to South Korea.

"The United States maintains that it has not considered deploying tactical nuclear weapons and that it has no plans to do so or should it," the ambassador said.

His remark comes amid views in South Korea that the country may consider nuclearizing itself to counter the North's growing nuclear capability.

The U.S. had maintained tactical nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula since the late 1950s, but completely withdrew them in 1991.

The ambassador also argued the U.S. believes the sour relationship between Seoul and Tokyo is partly because of Japan's hardline stance toward the bilateral ties.

"There certainly are no views (in the U.S.) that the reason for the difficulties in improving the relationship is with South Korea," said Lee. "(The U.S.) believes Japan has an unyielding position when it comes to improving the South Korea-Japan relations. The U.S. fully understands."

He also said the U.S. was working hard to help improve the relationship between its two Asian allies, but that Japan appears to be "uncomfortable" with such U.S. efforts.

bdk@yna.co.kr
(END)

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