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S. Korea, US agree on draft text of end-of-war declaration: FM Chung

Seoul sees little chance of improving inter-Korean relations during Olympics

Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong holds a year-end news conference at the ministry in Seoul on Dec. 29. (Yonhap)
Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong holds a year-end news conference at the ministry in Seoul on Dec. 29. (Yonhap)
South Korea and the US “effectively” have agreed on a draft text of an end-of-war declaration, although questions remain on how to advance consultations with North Korea, Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong said Wednesday.

Chung reiterated the Moon Jae-in government’s position that an end-of-war declaration provides a “very useful opportunity to resume dialogue” amid a protracted deadlock in talks with Pyongyang.

“Our government views that an end-of-war declaration is a crucial step that we must go through in the process of achieving complete denuclearization and permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Chung told reporters during a year-end news conference.

Notably, the South Korean top diplomat underscored that Seoul and Washington “have already shared the view on the significance of an end-of-war declaration.”

“Both sides also have effectively reached an agreement on a draft text of an end-of-war declaration,” Chung said, without further sharing the details.

Chung added he and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reaffirmed the matter on the occasion of the in-person G-7 meeting of foreign and development ministers held in mid-December in Liverpool, England.

But Chung elucidated that Seoul and Washington were still “reviewing various ways to advance consultations with North Korea.”

The South Korean foreign minister reiterated that the Moon Jae-in government expected North Korea to “present a more concrete response” to an end-of-war declaration, though Pyongyang “showed a set of prompt and positive reactions.”

Chung did not elaborate on how Pyongyang made an affirmative response to a declaration. But North Korea clarified its position on a declaration by issuing a series of statements under the name of senior officials after South Korean President Moon re-proposed an end-of-war declaration during his UN speech in September.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s sister Kim Yo-jong in the same month said the withdrawal of the US’ “inveterate hostile policy” and “unequal double standards” against North Korea’s military buildup, including its missile tests, should precede a declaration.

Neither the US State Department nor the US Embassy to South Korea was immediately reachable on Wednesday by The Korea Herald for comments on Chung’s remarks.

But the US State Department on Tuesday urged North Korea to respond to the US’ repeated overture to meet for dialogue without precondition.

“So we have made clear through our public messaging and private messaging as well that we are ready, willing and able to engage in this diplomacy, and we are -- we continue to hope the DPRK will respond positively to that outreach,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters during a press briefing.

“All the while, we’re continuing to consult closely with our allies -- the ROK, Japan, other allies and partners -- about how we might engage the DPRK.”

Republic of Korea is the formal name of South Korea, while Democratic People’s Republic of Korea refers to North Korea.

Little chance of breakthrough at Olympics
Speaking at the news conference, Chung said Seoul now saw little chance of making a breakthrough in inter-Korean relations with the upcoming Beijing Olympics as a momentum.

Chung reiterated that the Moon administration hoped to utilize the 2022 Beijing Winter Games as an opportunity to improve the South-North relationship.

But South Korea’s top diplomat suggested the poor outlook for inter-Korean relations could continue next year despite its efforts and diplomatic outreach.

“We view that it has virtually become difficult to realize the expectation as of now,” Chung told reporters during the press conference, referring to its diplomatic initiative to restore inter-Korean relations and resuscitate the peace process on the occasion of the Beijing Olympics.

“But we will do our best to improve inter-Korean relations and expeditiously reactivate the peace process on the Korean Peninsula using all opportunities. We will not give up hope until the end.”

North Korea has been banned from next year’s Olympics after failing to attend the Tokyo Games, but Seoul last week suggested that the IOC and Beijing have been in consultation over Pyongyang's participation.

Chung also repeated that the South Korean government is not currently considering joining the US-led diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, refusing to clarify whether China has invited President Moon to attend the games.

But the foreign minister said the South Korean government would make a decision on how to attend the Olympics, comprehensively considering multifaceted circumstances including its role as the country that hosted the previous Winter Games.

By Ji Da-gyum (dagyumji@heraldcorp.com)
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