The working-level negotiations between the United States and North Korea are likely to be announced next week, South Korea said on Saturday. "It seems the schedule for the working-level talks will be announced next week," Yonhap News Agency quoted President Moon Jae-in's special security advisor, Moon Chung-in as saying, adding that South Korea's chief nuclear negotiator Lee Do-hoon had recently met with his US counterpart Stephen Biegun in Germany.
The comments came after US President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un had an impromptu meeting at the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ), the de facto border separating North and South Korea. During the meet, the two leaders had agreed to resume working-level talks at the earliest. The meeting came after denuclearisation talks collapsed during the Hanoi summit in Vietnam in February.
Asserting that the working-level talks will help the US and North Korea narrow differences over the latter's denuclearisation process, Moon Chung-in, however, said that Washington could lift sanctions on the communist country if Pyongyang completely shuts down the Yongbyon nuclear complex. "The US may not stick to its previous stance and instead seek to have North Korea shut down the Yongbyon nuclear complex and report all domestic nuclear facilities," he said.
Washington is considering suspending certain sanctions on Pyongyang for 12 to 18 months in exchange for the dismantling of the entire nuclear weapons programme, including the closure of the nuclear complex, a source privy to White House talks had told the South Korean newspaper on Thursday. Denuclearisation talks between North Korea and the US hit a roadblock after the summit in Vietnam ended abruptly with no joint statement being released. The two sides reportedly failed to resolve their differences over sanction waiver.
The possibility of an agreement between the two countries suffered a setback after North Korea tested multiple short-range missiles in May as a sign of apparent frustration over the stalled negotiations and continuing sanctions. Pyongyang has repeatedly insisted that the removal of penalties will help spur economic growth, while Washington has reaffirmed that sanctions will not be removed till the communist country completely stopped its nuclear weapons programme.
Meanwhile, Moon Chung-in hoped that the Kaesong Industrial Complex and Mount Kumgang joint tour programme will resume soon if the working-level talks went on track for resuming the stalled denuclearisation negotiations between North Korea and the US. "It is possible that the Kaesong industrial park and Mount Kumgang tours will resume," the official said.
In 2016, South Korea had shut down the industrial park in the wake of North Korea's nuclear testings and provocations. In 2008, the Mount Kumgang tour programme was stopped after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean guard, which led to rising tensions between the two Koreas. (ANI)
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