South Korea unveils plan to break deadlock in US-N Korea talks
South Korea has proposed that the US declare an end to the Korean War, a key demand of Pyongyang, in exchange for a verified closure of a major North Korean nuclear facility as the next step in stalled negotiations.
The proposal was put forward by South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha in an interview with The Washington Post on Wednesday.
“What North Korea has indicated is they will permanently dismantle their nuclear facilities in Yongbyon, which is a very big part of their nuclear program,” the top diplomat said during a discussion at the South Korean mission to the UN.
“If they do that in return for America’s corresponding measures, such as the end-of-war declaration, I think that’s a huge step forward for denuclearization,” she added.
US President Donald Trump has not ruled out the possibility of declaring an end to the 1950-1953 war, which ended with a ceasefire rather than a peace treaty.
However, warmongers inside the Trump administration, particularly National Security Adviser John Bolton, are skeptical of declaring the end of war out of fear that it would give North Korea and China justification to demand the removal of the 28,500 US forces stationed in South Korea, people close to Bolton said, as reported by the Post.
Meanwhile, another key issue that has so far bogged down negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang is the US negotiators’ demand for an inventory of North Korea’s nuclear weapons, the South Korean foreign minister said.
Kang on Wednesday said the US must hold off the demand for now, and accept the verified dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear facilities if it wants to break the stalemate in its talks with North Korea.
The top South Korean diplomat’s proposal comes a few days before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth visit to North Korea, where he is expected to discuss a second meeting between Trump and Kim Jong-un.
The American and North Korean leaders held their first meeting in Singapore in June, reaching a vague denuclearization agreement; however, the talks between the two sides have had little progress since.
In a move to resolve the impasse, South Korean President Moon Jae-in visited the North last month and met with Kim, who offered to shut down the Yongbyon nuclear complex if Washington takes “corresponding measures”.
On October 4, the South Korean president also sent a delegation of 160 people, including government officials, politicians and civic and religious leaders, to North Korea to take part in an event to jointly celebrate the anniversary of the 2007 inter-Korean summit.
On Friday, the South Korean delegation will take part in the first-ever joint event to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the 2007 summit held in Pyongyang between then-South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
The two leaders adopted the October 4 Declaration after the summit, which called for the two Koreas to cooperate on building mutual trust, easing tensions and fostering inter-Korean economic cooperation.