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New vice unification minister visits inter-Korean liaison office for 1st time

Vice Unification Minister Suh Ho visited the inter-Korean liaison office in North Korea's border town of Kaesong on Friday for the first time since his appointment.

Suh was appointed last week as the South Korean chief of the office. He replaced Chun Hae-sung last month as vice unification minister, who also serves as Seoul's liaison office chief.

Suh crossed the western land border into the North earlier in the day and returned home in the afternoon after meeting the South Korean staff and figuring out the overall operation of the office.


A weekly meeting of co-heads, however, will not be held Friday as North Korea earlier informed Seoul that his North Korean counterpart, Jon Jong-su, will not travel to Kaesong. He met Kim Yong-chol, an acting deputy chief from the North Korean side.

"I told him that there were joint declarations adopted at three inter-Korean summits (last year) and in order to implement them faithfully, I expressed hope that the meeting of the co-heads will be held frequently," he told reporters after returning to the South.

"I also said that there are many pending issues that need to be resolved through such meetings," he added.

The two Koreas launched the office in September and agreed to hold a meeting of its co-heads -- one from each side -- every week.

The meeting, however, has not been held since the collapse of the Hanoi summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and US President Donald Trump in February.

North Korea has not responded yet to Seoul's offers for cooperative projects, including a proposal to work together to stem the spread of African swine fever after Pyongyang reported an outbreak of the highly contagious animal disease in a pig farm in its northern region last month.

Seoul has said that despite the absence of such weekly meetings at the liaison office, there is no problem in communication via the liaison office since its officials are in contact with the North Korean staff on a daily basis.

A senior government official earlier told reporters on condition of anonymity that Seoul is considering proposing to North Korea that the two sides hold a meeting of their liaison office chiefs only when they agree to it, rather than sticking to the current weekly basis. (Yonhap)