Seoul's top diplomat reaffirmed Wednesday a complete denuclearization of North Korea is a shared objective of South Korea and the United States, emphasizing that the allies are closely coordinating their strategies to achieve the goal.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told reporters that it will take time to verify the sincerity of the North's recently stated commitment to denuclearization, adding that it will become clear in the process of preparing talks with Pyongyang.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha speaks during a briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Central Government Complex in Seoul on Wednesday. (Yonhap)
"A complete dismantlement of the North's nuclear program is a shared goal not just of South and the US but also of the international community," Kang said. "With regard to when to achieve it and detailed timetables, South Korea and the US are in close consultation."
Kang made the remarks in response to a question about the two allies's plan for a complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear program.
She said that the government, and her ministry in particular, has participated in past negotiations over the North's nuclear issue and that it has an overall denuclearization "road map." But she declined to go into details, saying that it is inappropriate to elaborate on a matter that involves counterparts.
South Korea and the US are preparing for their respective summits with North Korea in April and May.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed his commitment to denuclearization last month during a meeting with South Korean officials in Pyongyang and again during a summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing.
"I think that what the North's (stated) commitment to denuclearization means exactly can be figured out through talks with North Korea, in the process of preparation (for the summits)," Kang said.
"We are preparing so as to make the North's denuclearization the priority agenda for the inter-Korean and US-North Korea summits. I expect we will be able to grasp more details in the process of discussions going forward."
The minister said that the Seoul government hopes the inter-Korean summit will be an "open-minded and comprehensive" conversation that is not hindered by agenda rigidity.
"Broadly, major issues will be denuclearization, inter-Korean relations and establishment of peace, but when it comes to what detailed items will be included, we have agreed that it should be frank, open-minded talks that are not bound by fixed themes," Kang said.
Regarding whether human rights issues should be dealt with during the inter-Korean summit, she remained cautious, saying more discussion is needed. She reaffirmed the government's stance that it will continue to cooperate with the international community to improve the North's human rights situation.
Kang added that the government is communicating closely with neighboring countries and relevant partners through diverse channels, including a trilateral summit with Japan and China possibly in May, to strengthen the peace momentum. (Yonhap)