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Unification Minister calls North for cautious response on new Biden administration

Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Lee In-young speaks during a press conference in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

Stressing the latest US presidential election as an important turning point, Unification Minister Lee In-young on Monday called on North Korea to act cautiously and refrain from provocations to make this period a time for peace between the two Koreas. 

Noting it could take several months for the incoming Joe Biden administration to review and come up with policy on Pyongyang, Lee underlined that this period of uncertainty could in turn become an opportunity to obtain peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

“The US election was held several days ago, which was a major turning point in a large change in situations,” Lee told reporters during a press conference held at the ministry’s inter-Korean dialogue office in Seoul. “It will take some time for (Biden’s) policy on North Korea to take shape, and this could cause uncertainty in the East Asia situation. 

“But this period could create bigger opportunity and space in achieving peace between South and North Korea. I hope to make this transition period into a time for the two Koreas.” 

He stressed that if the two Koreas open dialogue first and establish trust, the two sides could take a lead in ushering in a better situation, citing examples of the joint communique between the US and North Korea in 2000, and the Singapore Summit in 2018 -- where improved inter-Korean relations helped progress in US-North Korean relations. “I hope that the North will handle this period with a cautious, wise and flexible approach,” he said. 

Lee also vowed to cooperate with President-elect Biden to further advance the Seoul-Washington alliance to achieve peace on the Korean Peninsula. 

“Once the next administration steps in, it could take at least several months to do a policy review,” Lee said, adding he will communicate with government officials and experts in the US through “various channels.”

Noting that Washington has historically paid attention to Seoul’s position on dealing with North Korea, the minister pledged to use this period as an opportunity to solidify US support and cooperation between the two allies on ensuring the peace process on the Korean Peninsula. 

The Unification Ministry sees the postelection period as a time for Pyongyang to evaluate the situation and gauge its future options on responses to the new administration. In the past, Pyongyang often engaged in military provocations around US elections as a way to capture attention and gain the upper hand in negotiating with a new president. 

“There has been precedent of the North’s provocation,” a senior ministry official said. “But I don’t think we should conclude that the North will do so (this time).”

“I think it’s up to (South Korea) on what kind of decisions Pyongyang will make,” the official added, stressing the importance of Seoul’s role and its willingness to improve inter-Korean relations. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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