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Foreign ministers of S. Korea, EU vow cooperation for peaceful denuclearization of NK

The top diplomats of South Korea and the member countries of the European Union have reaffirmed that they will work closely together to achieve a peaceful and negotiated solution of North Korean nuclear issues, the foreign ministry said Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha attended the EU Foreign Affairs Council's meeting on Monday in Brussels, Belgium to give a briefing on the recent diplomatic developments on the Korean Peninsula and discuss cooperation between the two sides.

"The EU's policy of critical engagement with the DPRK ... has gone hand in hand with our own policy on the North Korean nuclear issue, one of pressure and sanctions on the one hand, but also seeking dialogue towards a peaceful resolution on the issue," Kang said in a press statement on the sidelines of the council. DPRK stands for the North's official full name, Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said, "Pressure is not a goal in itself," and that the objective of the EU is to "help open the political path for a peaceful, negotiated solution of the North Korean nuclear issue."

"We, as the EU, stand ready to do our part in this process," she also said, adding that "We have a rare chance in the coming months to make peace prevail on the Korean Peninsula." "It is an opportunity we believe we cannot afford to miss."

The consultations between South Korea and the EU come as Seoul is poised for a summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in late April for what could possibly be a breakthrough in the long-running North Korean nuclear issue. President Donald Trump has also agreed to meet with Kim by May to discuss permanent denuclearization of the country.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (R) attends a round-table meeting of the European Union`s Foreign Affairs Council on March 19, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (photo courtesy of the EU) (Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (R) attends a round-table meeting of the European Union`s Foreign Affairs Council on March 19, 2018 in Brussels, Belgium. (photo courtesy of the EU) (Yonhap)

Kang said she will "make the most out of this momentum towards our shared goal of the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea" in cooperation with the EU.

In a following round-table lunch meeting, the foreign ministers shared the view that the upcoming summits would be a pivotal chapter for improving inter-Korean relations and resolving the North Korean nuclear issue in a peaceful manner, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here. They also agreed to further strengthen strategic communication and cooperation between South Korea and the EU going forward.

Kang's attendance at the round-table lunch meeting of the EU council was arranged at the invitation of the EU to discuss the urgent issue. It was the first time a South Korean foreign minister has attended the monthly meeting of foreign ministers of the EU member countries.

"The discussion helped raise European countries' understanding of the recent progress on the peninsula and once again affirmed the EU's attention and support for our government's efforts to resolve the North Korean issue peacefully and build a permanent peace on the peninsula," the ministry noted.

Also Monday in Belgium, Kang held a separate meeting with Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, to discuss North Korean issues and cooperation, the ministry also said.

The secretary general "welcomed" the recent progress made in diplomacy with North Korea and pledged the NATO's proactive cooperation for the successful hosting of the inter-Korean, US-North summits, according to the ministry.

He also reasserted NATO's stance that the on-going international sanctions and pressure on North Korea should continue in order to achieve practical denuclearization of the country, the ministry also noted.

Kang and Stoltenberg also consented to closer cooperation on anti-terrorism, cybersecurity and other areas of mutual interest.(Yonhap)