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(2nd LD) S. Korea to continue efforts to reconcile with N. Korea

2017/08/23 23:16

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(ATTN: UPDATES with the minister's comments in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, Aug. 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will continue efforts to reset ties with Pyongyang by restoring dialogue channels and providing humanitarian assistance despite heightening tensions over its weapons programs, its top North Korea policymaker said Wednesday.

Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon laid out key policy goals on the second day of government policy briefings to President Moon Jae-in.

"To resolve pending issues between the two Koreas, the government will make efforts to push for inter-Korean dialogue including military and family reunions talks," Cho said.

This photo, taken on Aug. 23, 2017, shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) taking part in the government policy briefing of President Moon Jae-in. (Yonhap) This photo, taken on Aug. 23, 2017, shows Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon (L) taking part in the government policy briefing of President Moon Jae-in. (Yonhap)

In July, Seoul proposed military talks on easing border tensions and a Red Cross meeting to discuss the resumption of the reunions for families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War. But North Korea has kept mum on the offers and raised tensions by conducting two long-range missile tests in July.

The ministry reiterated it will promote civilian inter-Korean exchanges to the extent that the move does not hamper the international sanctions regime.

"Along with efforts to resolve urgent humanitarian issues including detainees in the North, South Korea will also seek to provide humanitarian assistance to improve situations facing North Korean citizens," Cho said.

After the briefing session, Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung said that Seoul will make "persistent" efforts to resume inter-Korean talks.

"As to separated family reunions, the government will continue to send a message to North Korea and also seek cooperation from the nongovernmental sector and international cooperation over the issue," Chun told a press briefing.

Later in the day, the minister reiterated that the government will take all possible "peaceful" measures to stop the North from completing nuclear weapons.

"It could even be possible if North Korea actually develops nuclear weapons and is on the path to the completion in the near future for 'Korea Passing' to actually happen," Cho said during a forum hosted by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

He also emphasized the importance of the joint industrial park in North Korea's Kaesong, saying that there is no better way to change Pyeongyang than the complex.

The joint industrial complex, located just north of the inter-Korean border, was once celebrated as a symbol of reconciliation between the two Koreas that have remained technically at war since the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce, not a peace treaty.

sooyeon@yna.co.kr

(END)

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