DPRK, ROK open joint li­ai­son of­fice

Moon seeks to be­come ‘chief ne­go­tia­tor’ for Kim and Trump

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SEOUL — The Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea and the Repub­lic of Korea on Fri­day opened their first li­ai­son of­fice near their bor­der to fa­cil­i­tate bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tion and ex­changes ahead of their lead­ers’ sum­mit in Py­ongyang next week.

The of­fice’s open­ing at the DPRK bor­der town of Kaesong is the lat­est in a se­ries of rec­on­cil­ia­tory steps the two neigh­bors have taken this year. The of­fice is the first of its kind since they were di­vided at the end of World War II in 1945.

The two neigh­bors so far have been us­ing tele­phone and fax-like com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels when they want to ar­range talks and ex­change mes­sages. But those chan­nels have of­ten been sus­pended when ten­sions rose.

At the open­ing cer­e­mony in Kaesong, ROK Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­is­ter Cho My­oung-gyon said the of­fice would be­come the “cra­dle of Korean co-pros­per­ity”.

“We’ll sit face to face, ex­change our thoughts fast and ac­cu­rately and put our heads to­gether to re­solve dif­fi­cult mat­ters,” he said in re­marks dis­trib­uted by his of­fice.

Ri Son-gwon, chair­man of the DPRK’s Com­mit­tee for Peace­ful Re­uni­fi­ca­tion, said dur­ing the cer­e­mony that the of­fice would help the DPRK and the ROK ex­change “can­did con­ver­sa­tions” and fur­ther build up their ties, ac­cord­ing to the ROK me­dia pool re­ports from the site.

Around 15-20 ROK of­fi­cials will work at the of­fice nine-tofive, sleep at a nearby lodg­ing fa­cil­ity in Kaesong dur­ing week­days and take turns staffing the of­fice on week­ends. The of­fice will be co-headed by ROK Vice-Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­is­ter Chun Hae-sung and a deputy head of the DPRK’s Com­mit­tee for Peace­ful Re­uni­fi­ca­tion and they will hold an of­fi­cial meet­ing ev­ery week, ac­cord­ing to the ROK’s Uni­fi­ca­tion Min­istry

They will deal with an equal num­ber of DPRK of­fi­cials sta­tioned at the of­fice to dis­cuss var­i­ous in­ter-Korean is­sues, ex­change mes­sages from their cap­i­tals and fa­cil­i­tate civil­ian ex­change pro­grams, the min­istry said in a state­ment.

About 50 gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and ex­perts from the two sides at­tended the cer­e­mony.

Kaesong is where the neigh­bors’ now-stalled jointly run fac­tory com­plex is lo­cated. The park was seen as a test case for uni­fi­ca­tion. But its op­er­a­tion was sus­pended in 2016 amid an es­ca­lat­ing stand­off over Py­ongyang’s long-range rocket launch.

The re­sump­tion of the Kaesong park and other dor­mant in­ter-Korean co­op­er­a­tion projects won’t likely hap­pen any­time soon be­cause US-led in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions on the DPRK re­main in place. Seoul of­fi­cials said work­ers ren­o­vated some of the build­ings used in the com­plex to use as the li­ai­son of­fice and the lodg­ing fa­cil­ity.

The li­ai­son of­fice’s open­ing came be­fore ROK Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in and DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un meet next week for the third time this year to dis­cuss de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the penin­sula and other is­sues.

Dur­ing the pre­vi­ous meet­ings with Moon and a sep­a­rate his­toric sum­mit with US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, Kim had ex­pressed his com­mit­ment to the com­plete de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the penin­sula. He has also or­dered the dis­man­tling of nu­clear and rocket-en­gine test­ing sites. But nu­clear diplo­macy was later stale­mated as US of­fi­cials de­manded Py­ongyang take more sig­nif­i­cant steps be­fore re­ceiv­ing con­ces­sions such as a joint dec­la­ra­tion to end the Korean War.

Moon is to fly to Py­ongyang on Tues­day for a three-day trip that he says will fo­cus on fa­cil­i­tat­ing talks be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang.

Trump last week asked Moon to act as “chief ne­go­tia­tor” be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Py­ongyang, ac­cord­ing to Moon’s spokesman, af­ter Trump can­celed a visit to Py­ongyang by US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo last month.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Of­fi­cials from the Repub­lic of Korea and the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea at­tend the open­ing cer­e­mony of a joint li­ai­son of­fice for com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the two sides, in Kaesong, the DPRK, on Fri­day.

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