Seoul: North Korea intent to denuclearize should lead to talks

A South Korean soldier stands guard in a conference room in the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission Conference Building at the joint security area of Panmunjom in the demilitarized zone. Seoul's unification minister said a North Korea willingness to denuclearize should be sufficient for talks. Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI

Oct. 31 (UPI) — South Korea’s recently appointed unification minister said talks with North Korea should not be ruled out if Pyongyang signals a willingness to denuclearize.

Cho Myung-gyun said during a parliamentary audit in Seoul Tuesday that South Korea shares the goal of North Korea denuclearization with the United States, Yonhap reported.

But the unification minister suggested South Korean flexibility is desirable as tensions may rise again with future North Korea tests.

“Our government shares the same goal of North Korea denuclearization with the United States, and if we can confirm [North Korea] commitment to denuclearization, even before [denuclearization] we are taking the approach we could engage in dialogue and negotiation,” Cho said.

The South Korean official also said it is his understanding the United States and North Korea are exploring ways to enter into dialogue and negotiation.

“The North, however, has not expressed intent to enter full-scale negotiations, which is why they have not moved on to the negotiation phase,” Cho said.

The South Korean official also said he did not have information that could confirm a recent press report regarding an assassination attempt on Kim Han Sol, a nephew of leader Kim Jong Un.

Cho did say there is a “serious problem” with information leaks on North Koreans who have resettled in the South, News 1 reported.

“It is an extremely terrible thing,” Cho said. “We will do what we can do to prevent it from happening in the future.”

Cho made the statement in response to a question from Park Byeong-seok, a lawmaker with the Minjoo Party of Korea.

Park had asked whether North Korean security agents who could hold defectors’ family members hostage were threatening defectors in the South.

“We understand this is the situation,” Cho said, referring to the increasing number of cases where defectors are being blackmailed by the North Korean state.

Park said there was a recent case of a South Korean unification ministry official who accepted a bribe of $12,500 in return for a list of defectors and their contact information.

A broker who arranges escape routes for defectors had paid the money, according to the report.


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