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South Korean, U.S. officials discuss North aid

Jan 18,2019
South Korean and U.S. government officials Thursday discussed pending North Korea-related issues via videoconferencing, including Seoul’s push for humanitarian programs, ministries involved said.

The two sides also talked “in general” about a move to resume Pyongyang-Washington dialogue, according to Noh Kyu-duk, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Today, there were consultations on such matters as video reunions of separated families and the exchange of video letters,” he said at a press briefing, referring to those with kin on the other side of the demilitarized zone (DMZ), a legacy of the 1950-53 Korean War. He pointed out that the United States is keenly interested in the humanitarian issue.

But sanctions in place against Pyongyang are a potential setback to the video-based programs that require the entry of various equipment in the communist nation. “I was told that it would take considerable time to have various reviews of such devices and sanctions on North Korea,” Noh said.

Not discussed in earnest during Thursday’s session was South Korean businessmen’s attempts to visit the now-closed Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North and the issue of whether to resume cross-border tours to Mount Kumgang, Noh said. Amid time restraints, the representatives focused on other issues, he said.

Speaking to reporters separately, a Unification Ministry official said South Korea and the United States discussed a plan to provide the North with the antiviral medication Tamiflu in addition to the separated family issue.

Last week, around 180 South Koreans who once ran factories at the industrial park requested state approval to inspect facilities they left behind when it was abruptly shuttered in 2016. The South Korean government earlier said it needs more time to review their applications, saying it is a “unique case” that requires an international “understanding” due to sanctions. The allies launched the working group last November as a separate communication channel amid speculation that they have a divergent approach toward the communist nation.

Yonhap