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Minister says he will help create environment for US-NK talks

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul said Sunday he will make the effort to “create an environment” for denuclearization talks between the US and North Korea as he began his first trip to the US since taking office.

Kim’s seven-day visit to the US came after Pyongyang demanded Seoul remove all the facilities it had built at the Kumgangsan resort and vowed to build its own resort.

“I plan to meet some people in the State Department and Congress to exchange views on the North Korean nuclear issue and the situation on the Korean Peninsula,” the minister told reporters at Dulles International Airport on Sunday.

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (Yonhap)
Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul (Yonhap)

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Kim said he would bring ideas to Washington, such as easing travel restrictions on US citizens of Korean origin who still have relatives in the North, and an “Olympics armistice” next year, under which North Korea suspends its missile tests and the US suspends joint military exercises with South Korea. Japan is hosting the 2020 Summer Games.

Seoul and Washington have decided to postpone their winter joint air exercises to support diplomacy with Pyongyang. Meanwhile, the North has denounced a United Nations human rights resolution against it as a US attempt to topple the communist regime.

In this regard, Kim said, “It looks like more efforts should be made to create an environment (for talks),” without mentioning further details.

In response to reporters’ questions about the removal of facilities built by South Korea at Kumgangsan and the possibility of resuming tours to the mountain resort, the minister only said he would talk about Seoul’s position after discussions with Washington.

He also did not give specific answers to questions about the “Olympics armistice” and the termination of a military information-sharing pact between Seoul and Tokyo, saying he would talk about them after his meetings in the US.

During the weeklong visit, Kim is scheduled to deliver a keynote address on Wednesday at the Korea Global Forum for Peace, an annual seminar his ministry has hosted in Washington. He will also meet with senior US officials, congressional leaders and experts.

On Thursday, he will make a stop in Los Angeles to give a lecture at the University of Southern California and meet with American experts on Korea as well as Korean residents there.

By Kim So-hyun (