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Unification minister proposes ‘tentative deal’ for NK nuclear impasse

Expressing regret over stalled inter-Korean relations, South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul stressed the need to seek “modus vivendi,” or a tentative deal, as a solution to break the impasse in the nuclear negotiations between the US and North Korea. 

“With North Korea’s looming deadline for negotiations, the situation on the Korean Peninsula hereafter is very uncertain. Concerned countries share the severity of the circumstances, and are undertaking various diplomatic endeavors at this moment,” Kim told reporters at a year-end press conference held in Seoul on Thursday. 

“In order to prevent the situation from worsening and gain momentum for negotiations, we need a tentative deal that could be a stepping stone to reach a final agreement, the wisdom of modus vivendi.”


South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul speaks during a press conference held in Seoul on Thursday. (Ministry of Unification)
South Korean Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul speaks during a press conference held in Seoul on Thursday. (Ministry of Unification)


Modus vivendi refers to tolerable peaceful coexistence between conflicting parties. Kim suggested Washington and Pyongyang should reach a tentative deal first to keep the negotiations going, and create an environment that can lead to the final agreement. 

US President Donald Trump has reiterated that no sanctions will be lifted unless North Korean leader Kim Jong-un abandons nuclear program for good. Meanwhile, Pyongyang is demanding Washington to ease sanctions first, and if not, it will take an unspecified “new path.”

In this conflicting situation, the minister stressed the importance of coming up with “creative solutions.” The government is also paying attention to the latest UN proposal by China and Russia to ease sanctions on North Korea, he added. 

“As for the inter-Korean relations, the (working) space has been squeezed a lot,” he said. “In order to turn around from the current downward situation, we need a careful strategy.” 

For the upcoming year, Kim vowed constant efforts for progress in the Korean Peninsula peace process, which refers to the Moon Jae-in administration’s drive to engage North Korea and bring about denuclearization. “As for the Unification Ministry, we will seek new projects that could contribute to the complete denuclearization of North Korea and lasting peace,” he added. 

He stressed the importance of the project to modernize North Korean railways and roads and connect them with the South. This inter-Korean project broke ground last December, but was stalled due to US-led sanctions against the North. 

Kim also said the government is planning on a joint inspection of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) with the North, to turn the colossal green region between the two Koreas into an international peace zone. 

“This survey will be used as the base data to list DMZ as the UNESCO World Heritage site,” he said. 

The minister also vowed to expand partnership with the North for boosting tourism, as well as vitalize humanitarian aid and interexchange. 

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)
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