Seoul, May 30 (IANS) Amid a flurry of diplomatic efforts to salvage the US-North Korea summit, the South Korean Unification Minister warned on Wednesday that “significant” differences remain between the two countries on how to achieve denuclearisation.
“I can say that the differences in stances between North Korea and the US remain quite significant,” Minister Cho Myoung-gyon said in a speech in Seoul.
“It will not be easy to narrow the gap and find common ground, but I think it would not be impossible.”
Cho delivered the sobering assessment as US and North Korean officials resumed working-level talks aimed at closing that gap, according to Yonhap News Agency.
“Now that the leaders of the two countries are engaging in talks in a top-down manner, I think the chances are high that common ground can be found,” he added.
North Korea and the US have been in discord over how fast Pyongyang should give up its nuclear weapons programme, a seemingly unbridgeable gap over which the two countries saw their planned summit almost collapse last week.
The US wants swift and irreversible denuclearisation while the North reportedly said that it wants phased and synchronized steps towards abandoning its nuclear weapons.
Cho said that it was understandable that scepticism lingered over the real intention of the North in attending talks, given the past history of negotiations with Pyongyang.
However, he said the North’s recent steps like a missile and nuclear test moratorium and the dismantling of its only known nuclear test site, demonstrated its commitment to denuclearisation.
Saying that the North was seeking regime safety from the US in return for its abandonment of nuclear weapons, Cho also said that according to the Seoul government it was “desirable” for them to make a big deal on the two fronts and implement relevant agreements “in a comprehensive manner”.
He said it was just the beginning of what would be a long-haul process of denuclearisation fraught with many challenges going forward.
“I can say that we have just entered the gate of denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” Cho said. “There will be many challenges that need to be overcome.”