ROK President Moon Jae-in (L) talks with DPRK leader Kim Jong Un (C) and US President Donald Trump on the border following their meeting at the border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, ROK, June 30, 2019. (Photo: AP)
The United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are set to discuss Seoul's push for inter-Korean exchanges amid the prolonged deadlock in nuclear talks between the US and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), according to a report by ROK's Yonhap news agency.
Alex Wong, US deputy assistant secretary of state for the DPRK, arrived in the ROK on Sunday for a bilateral policy coordination working group meeting on issues regarding Pyongyang. Wong will meet with Rhee Dong-yeol, director general at the ROK Foreign Ministry's Korean Peninsula Peace Regime Bureau on Monday, officials from the ministry said.
The US diplomat could also pay a courtesy call to Seoul's chief nuclear negotiator Lee Do-hoon during his four-day trip.
It will be the first meeting of the US-ROK working group since May.
Talks between Washington and Pyongyang have stalled since a fruitless summit between US President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un in Vietnam's Hanoi almost a year ago. The DPRK has threatened to resume nuclear weapon and ballistic missile tests if the US refuses to ease sanctions.
Seoul's push for inter-Korean cooperation
In his new year press conference, ROK President Moon Jae-in vowed to push for an expansion of inter-Korean cooperation to facilitate US-DPRK talks. The ROK Unification Ministry last month unveiled plans for individual tours in DPRK's major tourist sites.
Tourism is not subject to international sanctions imposed over DPRK's nuclear and missile programs, and the proposals are designed to avoid breaching UN bans on bulk cash transfers and joint business ventures with the DPRK. Seoul said the US knows of its plans.
ROK Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul on Sunday reaffirmed the need to push for inter-Korean cooperation in railways, roads and tourism, Yonhap reported.
"We will continue to seek ways to expand cross-border relations in the fields of tourism, which North Korea (the DPRK) has been focusing on, and railways and roads that connect land and sea, as well as the two Koreas, in the Demilitarized Zone and border areas," Kim told a forum in the eastern provincial county of PyeongChang.
"It's time that we started sustainable exchanges and cooperation that will remain undaunted under any kind of circumstances," he said. "If we help each other and overcome obstacles together, the road to peace will be closer by that much."
Kim also reiterated the ROK's desire to push for co-hosting the 2032 Summer Olympics with the DPRK.
"If the international community pulls together its support, the stream of peace will incessantly flow down from Tokyo and Beijing to the North-South joint Olympics," he said.
Tokyo will host the Summer Olympics this year, followed by the Winter Olympics in the Chinese capital in 2022.
Pyongyang previously criticized Seoul for lackluster progress after the leaders agreed to restart economic cooperation in 2018.
China has repeatedly expressed support for inter-Korean exchanges and dialogue between the US and the DPRK, urging both sides to meet each other halfway.