Published: Sun, September 16, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

USA says denuclearisation talks ongoing with North Korea

USA says denuclearisation talks ongoing with North Korea

South and North Korea launched their joint liaison office on Friday, securing a platform for round-the-clock communication that is expected to help foster cross-border exchange and ease tensions.

The move is a follow-up on an agreement that the leaders of the two Koreas reached in their April summit to run such an office on hopes that the office will serve as a communication channel to help facilitate inter-Korean cooperation on various fronts.

The U.S. -led United Nations Command on Thursday approved planned border crossings for South Koreans and material to build a new communication building and to open a new liaison office in a North Korean border village.

So far, there has been no concrete progress made on the American effort to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

"A new chapter in history is open here today", South Korean unification minister Cho Myoung-gyon told a ceremony, calling the office "another symbol of peace jointly created by the South and the North".

"We'll sit face to face, exchange our thoughts fast and accurately and put our heads together to resolve hard matters", he said in remarks distributed by his office.

South Korea will station around 20 officials there, while the North will deploy 15-20 officials to the office.

Chun and Jon held their first meeting as co-heads of the office after the ceremony, mostly focusing on introductions and exchanging pleasantries and views on general issues.

The two Koreas previously communicated by fax and special phone lines, which were at times cut off when inter-Korean relations sank, but will now be able to "communicate 24 hours, 365 days", South Korea's Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said this week. But its operation was suspended in 2016 amid an escalating standoff over North Korea's long-range rocket launch.

At Washington's request, . the UN Security Council will meet on Monday over the implementation of sanctions on North Korea.

The opening of the liaison office is a sign that even if talks between the North and the United States are not moving forward, the two Koreas seem determined to develop closer ties, says BBC Seoul correspondent Laura Bicker. "We believe they are central to President [Donald] Trump's efforts to convince [North Korean leader] Chairman Kim Jong Un that full, final denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula is necessary", Pompeo said.

During the previous meetings with Moon and a separate summit with US President Donald Trump, Kim has expressed a vague commitment to complete denuclearization of the peninsula. He's also dismantled his nuclear and rocket-engine testing sites.

But nuclear diplomacy later became stalemated as USA officials demanded Kim take more significant steps before receiving concessions such as a joint declaration to end the Korean War.

Moon and South Korean delegation will fly directly to Pyongyang using the Western air route, Moon's office said, adding that an advance team will take the land route to Pyongyang Sunday for preparations.

Both Koreas are calling for a declaration by the end of the year, but the U.S. wants to see more concrete steps toward denuclearization first, and some analysts say a declaration could put pressure on the United States to withdraw its troops from South Korea. Key parts of the three-day trip will also be broadcast live.

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