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(LEAD) N.K. denuclearization faces key moment in coming months: S. Korean envoy

2018/07/11 15:31

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(ATTN: UPDATES with plan for talks on soldier remains return in last 4 paras)

SEOUL, July 11 (Yonhap) -- A senior South Korean diplomat said Wednesday efforts to denuclearize North Korea will reach a crossroads in the coming months.

Lee Do-hoon, representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at the foreign ministry, also stressed the importance of Seoul-Washington coordination in the process, as he headed to the U.S. capital for related consultations.

"In the path toward the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, the next several months will likely be very important," he told reporters just before flying to Washington, D.C. "Above all, the core element in the process is how closely South Korea and the U.S. coordinate."

  

Lee Do-hoon, representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at South Korea's foreign ministry, leaves for Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2018. (Yonhap) Lee Do-hoon, representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs at South Korea's foreign ministry, leaves for Washington, D.C. on July 11, 2018. (Yonhap)

He added that's why he's visiting the U.S. this week.

He plans to meet with U.S. officials between Wednesday and Saturday (local time), including Alex Wong, deputy assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, and Matthew Pottinger, National Security Council senior director for Asian affairs.

The two sides are expected to discuss the next steps in the wake of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's trip to Pyongyang last week.

Although Pompeo has been confronted with criticism that he returned empty-handed, he described his two-day visit as "productive."

   The North and the U.S. plan to continue working-level talks on following up on their Singapore summit deal.

Seoul's foreign ministry called the secretary's latest face-to-face negotiations with North Koreans as a "quite productive starting point" to take follow-up measures.

Speaking at a press briefing earlier this week, the ministry's spokesman Noh Kyu-duk cited an accord by the two sides to hold Panmunjom talks on the repatriation of the remains of American service members killed in the 1950-53 Korean War.

The negotiations are slated to be held in truce village that straddles the two Koreas' border on Thursday.

"The meeting is expected to open on Thursday as scheduled, probably in the morning, attended by working-level Pentagon officials," an informed source said. "The Department of Defense is directly in charge of the issue."

   On a specific meeting place, the source said it will likely be the Military Armistice Commission conference room, called T2, neither the Freedom House nor the Tongilgak pavilion used for inter-Korean dialogue.

The blue T2 building served as the venue for military-related talks between the U.S. and the North.

lcd@yna.co.kr

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