Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha on Thursday expressed hopes for a "big" step in the new year toward establishing "genuine" peace on the Korean Peninsula, despite growing skepticism over the stalemated nuclear talks with North Korea.
Kang made the remarks during her ministry's kick-off meeting for 2020, pointing to the continued momentum for dialogue with Pyongyang as a result of "perseverance" despite diplomatic challenges from home and abroad.
"This year's task is that, taking the efforts we have made as a stepping stone, we take a big step forward to ending confrontation on the peninsula and establishing genuine peace." Kang said.
"As President (Moon Jae-in) has said, we should get closer to the goal of building a peaceful Korean Peninsula free from concerns about the outbreak of war," she added.
Her remarks came after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a New Year's message that warned of a "new strategic weapon" test and "shocking actual action," but left the door open for dialogue with the United States.
Kim's warnings appear aimed at underscoring his frustration over the US' refusal to meet his year-end deadline for progress in the nuclear negotiations and further pressuring Washington to make concessions.
The two countries last held working-level nuclear talks in Sweden in October, but the talks ended fruitlessly with Pyongyang accusing Washington of having come to the negotiating table "empty handed."
Amid the absence of progress in the nuclear talks, the North has shunned dialogue and exchanges with the South, raising concerns over whether Seoul can assert any influence in the negotiation.
Kang brushed aside those concerns.
"I think without us as a factor, it may be difficult to expect that the momentum for dialogue will be revived," Kang told reporters after the kick-off meeting.
"I think we have been playing a decisive role in terms of dialogue with China and Russia and cooperation between South Korea and the US," she added.
The minister also stressed that as a "principal" party in the efforts to establish peace on the peninsula, South Korea has been closely communicating with concerned countries to make progress in the ongoing diplomacy with the North. (Yonhap)