“It is hard to predict and we are not yet specifically consulting on it, but we cannot rule out the possibility,” Kang told reporters during her first visit to London since she took office in June last year.
The top diplomat was in London from Tuesday to Thursday to meet her British counterpart before flying to New York to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
There have been speculations that a meeting involving South Korean President Moon Jae-in, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump could take place on the margins of the UN General Assembly, where the leaders could declare a formal end to the Korean War.
|Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha (C) speaks during a meeting with reporters in London on July 18. (Yonhap)|
Following Pompeo’s visit to Pyongyang earlier this month, North Korea openly demanded the US discuss ending the 1950-53 Korean War.
Asked about the possibility of declaring a formal end to the war during the UN meeting in September, Kang said the government will make “diplomatic efforts” but cannot pinpoint when it will happen.
She expressed her wish to hold a meeting with her North Korean counterpart Ri Yong-ho on the sidelines of the AESAN Regional Forum scheduled for July 30-Aug. 4. She said she expects to discuss many issues with Ri, including declaring an end to the Korean War.
Regarding increasing doubts over the prospects for denuclearization, Kang said the denuclearization process could take some time.
“The complete denuclearization is the unshakable, shared goal (of the South and the US) and of the international community,” Kang said. “Even if this takes time, (we) have to definitely achieve (that goal).”
“Expectations have been too heightened,” she said. “We should take a long-term view in leading North Korea to denuclearize. There are lots of technical problems, too.”
Her remarks are in line with the Trump administration, which has been seen backing away from putting a timeline on North Korea’s denuclearization. On Tuesday, Trump said there was “no time limit” and reiterated in a tweet on Wednesday that there was “no rush.” Pompeo also said Wednesday at a cabinet meeting that reaching a denuclearization deal with North Korea “may take some time.”
It is seen as a shift from the Trump administration’s earlier stance that North Korea should get rid of its nuclear program in a compressed, short period of time. Earlier this month, White House national security adviser John Bolton claimed that the “overwhelming bulk of their programs” could be dismantled within a year.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of making a “unilateral and gangster-like demand.”
Asked about criticism that North Korea’s human rights issue has been overshadowed by denuclearization talks, Kang said it is a matter of judgement whether to put it on the table when negotiations aimed at bringing about peace are underway.
“The South Korean government agrees that the human rights situation in North Korea is appalling and it should be subject to the international community’s attention,” she said. “After North Korea’s denuclearization sees progress and dialogue with the North becomes routine, conditions will be created for other changes.”
In London, Kang met with her new British counterpart Jeremy Hunt for the countries’ fourth “strategic dialogue” where they agreed to continue close cooperation for the sustainable development of Seoul-London ties even after Brexit.
She also presided over an annual meeting of the heads of South Korean diplomatic missions in Europe, Russia and Central Asia, asking them to step up efforts to gather support from the international community for the peace drive on the Korean Peninsula.
Following her visit to London, Kang is set to make a three-day visit to New York starting Thursday. Kang plans to brief members of the UN Security Council, together with Pompeo, on Seoul and Washington’s efforts to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free and build lasting peace.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org)