Seoul Wants to End Deadlock Between Pyongyang, Washington

As the negotiations between Washington and Pyongyang on denuclearization appear to have stalled after last month’s summit between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un ended without agreement, South Korea is looking for ways to end the impasse, Politico writes.

Seoul’s presidential Blue House on Monday said the time was now right for the two Koreas to hold further talks, building upon President Moon Jae-in’s policy of rapprochement which saw him meet Kim three times last year.

“We’re in a deep agony over how to take advantage of this baton that has been handed over to us. We agree with the view that no deal is better than a bad deal … However, in reality, it is difficult to achieve complete denuclearization at one stroke. I think we need to reconsider the so-called all or nothing strategy,” a high-ranking official said.

After last month’s summit in Hanoi was cut short by several hours, Trump told reporters that Pyongyang had wanted “sanctions lifted in their entirety, but we couldn’t do that… we had to walk away from it.”

North Korea contradicted this claim, with the country’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho later saying Pyongyang had made “realistic” proposals in return for a “partial lifting of sanctions”. In the days and weeks since, the North has threatened to suspend all channels of communication with Washington and even restart its missile tests, Poltico adds.

To end the impasse, South Korea wants to get the North to “agree with a broad road map aimed to achieve the overarching goal of denuclearization,” according to the Blue House statement.

“On the basis of that, we should make further efforts to turn a small deal into a deal that is good enough. In order to achieve meaningful progress, we need one or two early harvests for mutual trust-building to move on toward the final goal,” the official stated.

Meanwhile, South Korea is taking steps towards reopening the industrial zone between the two Koreas, risking undermining Washington’s hardline approach to Pyongyang, Financial Times reports.

South Korean businesses that operated in the zone say they collectively incurred losses of Won1.5tn ($1.3bn) from the closure, which was only partially reimbursed by the South Korean government.

“Most of us are keen to go back once sanctions are lifted,” said Shin Han-yong, chairman of an association of Kaesong companies.

He hopes that Seoul’s unification ministry will decide on Friday to let businessmen travel back to Kaesong to assess the state of their factory buildings, which they own, even though they do not own the land. North Korea is expected to support the move as it is keen to encourage economic co-operation, FT adds.

The Kaesong complex, which opened in 2004, was born out of an inter-Korean summit in 2000 and became a symbol of reconciliation, combining South Korean capital with cheap North Korean labour. The zone remained operational through years of tension and pointed to the possibility the two Koreas could eventually be reunited.

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