(LEAD) Foreign minister says S. Korea-U.S. talks over end-of-war declaration in final stages
(ATTN: UPDATES with minister's remarks on papal visit to North Korea in last 5 paras)
SEOUL, Nov. 11 (Yonhap) -- Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Thursday coordination between Seoul and Washington over a declaration to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War is in its final stages.
Chung made the remarks during a parliamentary session, confirming there has been progress in the allies' talks over the declaration as stated this week by South Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Soo-hyuck.
"We have recently had very close consultations with the U.S. about the format and contents of an end-of-war declaration," Chung said. "Coordination between South Korea and the U.S. has almost been completed."
The minister acknowledged, however, that adopting the declaration will take time.
"It's not something that can be achieved solely through an agreement between the United States and South Korea, so it doesn't appear as if an end-of-war declaration will be easy," he said, adding that he is not in a position to predict when it will happen.
The Moon Jae-in administration hopes to use an end-of-war declaration as a starting point to resume talks with North Korea and bring lasting peace to the peninsula, including through a dismantlement of the North's nuclear weapons program.
The Korean War ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the sides technically at war.
"(South Korea and the U.S.) have agreed on the big framework and are discussing how to proceed with the (declaration's) format and contents," Chung said.
"The United States is almost in agreement with our government on the need for an end-of-war declaration and what form it should take, as well as its substance," he said, adding Seoul plans to continue discussing the details with Washington.
"It is our united view with the United States that an end-of-war declaration is necessary as the first step to draw North Korea to talks and thus achieve denuclearization and the establishment of peace," he said.
North Korea has yet to publicly express its interest in the declaration.
When asked if he has ever asked the North to consider inviting Pope Francis during inter-Korean talks, Chung said he has, but declined to elaborate.
"In the course of inter-Korean talks, I did propose the North consider arranging a visit by the pope," he said.
At their meeting at the Vatican last month, President Moon asked the pope a second time to visit the North and the pontiff responded he would do so if he received an invitation from Pyongyang.
Chung said there has been no "negative response" from the North.
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