Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong speaks during a parliamentary audit session held at the National Assembly on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
North Korea's recent missile test underscores the need for engaging the reclusive state and sanctions relief can be considered as part of incentives to bring it back to the negotiating table, Seoul's top diplomat said Wednesday.
Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong was speaking at a parliamentary audit session, hours after the North said it has successfully test-fired a new type of submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on Tuesday.
"We should take some actions to prevent North Korea from further developing its nuclear and missile capabilities," Chung said. "Sanctions relief can be considered as part of efforts, on condition that the North accepts the dialogue proposal."
North Korea has faced worsening economic woes due to continued UN sanctions implemented in response to its nuclear and missile tests, as well as COVID-19 lockdowns and bad weather.
When asked whether Washington is on the same page with Seoul for the conditions-based easing of sanctions, Chung said, "The US has consistently made it clear that it can discuss any issues at the negotiating table if the North returns to talks."
US Special Representative for North Korea Policy Sung Kim on Tuesday reaffirmed that the US remains open to dialogue with Pyongyang but made it clear that the Joe Biden administration will keep sanctions in place until the North makes concrete steps toward denuclearization.
Chung expressed hope that President Moon Jae-in's proposal to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War could provide the much-needed momentum for the stalled denuclearization talks with Pyongyang.
"The end-of-war declaration is one of several options to restart the peace process. It aims to build trust to create an atmosphere for dialogue," Chung said. "It is the first gateway for the peace process on the Korean Peninsula and an essential step."
The North's latest show of force came amid a flurry of diplomatic activities to resume the long-stalled denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang.
The Moon Jae-in administration has been making last-ditch efforts for a breakthrough in the Korea peace process that lost steam with a no-deal Hanoi summit in 2019 between Kim and then US President Donald Trump. (Yonhap)