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Nuke talks make headway: Moon

Aug 17,2018
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President Moon Jae-in, third from right, holds a luncheon meeting with floor leaders of five major political parties in the Blue House on Thursday. [JOINT PRESS CORPS]
President Moon Jae-in said Thursday dialogue between Pyongyang and Washington on denuclearizing North Korea was progressing at “an unprecedented pace” and that people “should not worry too much” about the seemingly stalled talks.

Moon made the remark during a luncheon meeting with floor leaders of five major political parties that included the ruling Democratic Party and the major opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) at the Blue House. It was the first such meeting since May 2017.

“[The talks between the North and the United States] are moving at an unprecedented pace. There isn’t need for much worry,” Moon was quoted as saying by Youn So-ha, acting floor leader of the Justice Party, who was among the five politicians invited to the meeting.

Moon made the “unprecedented pace” remark by emphasizing the fact that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang three times this year to discuss the North’s denuclearization. The top U.S. diplomat is expected to make his fourth trip in the coming days.

Moon also remarked “there have been many more talks and contacts via various channels [between the North and the United States] than publicly reported,” according to Rep. Kim Kwan-young, the floor leader of the centrist Bareunmirae Party, who briefed reporters on the luncheon at the National Assembly. The president also noted there was also close cooperation between Seoul and Washington on discussing denuclearizing the North.

Moon asked the five floor leaders to ratify the Panmunjom Declaration in a bipartisan spirit, the product of his first summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on April 27, as he prepares for his third meeting with Kim in Pyongyang next month, for which a date has not been fixed.

“As you all know, the next South-North summit will be held in Pyongyang next month. And if the National Assembly ratifies the April 27 Panmunjom Declaration, it will give us great momentum going forward,” Moon said, adding that he hoped National Assembly members would be able to make the trip to Pyongyang with him to lay the groundwork for an official meeting between the Supreme People’s Assembly, the North’s unicameral legislature, and the South’s National Assembly.

On a demand by Kim Sung-tae, the LKP’s floor leader, for a parliamentary probe into the smuggling of North Korean coal and iron into the country last year, Moon said there were some details of the matter that the government could not fully disclose.

“I think there is considerable misunderstanding over the issue due to different perspectives on it. I will try to communicate [with the National Assembly] better to prevent misunderstanding,” Moon said.

The LKP suspects that the government turned a blind eye to the North Korean smuggling out of concern that it could harm inter-Korean relations.

Aside from North Korea-related issues, Moon and the five floor leaders agreed to hold a joint consultative governing meeting attended by the ruling and opposition parties and the government once every quarter.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]