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US, South Korea mulling incentives for Kim in nuclear talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, right, and South Korean President Moon Jae-In arrive to hold a summit at the Paekhwawon State Guest House in Pyongyang, North Korea on September 19, 2018. (Pyeongyang Press Corps/AFLO/Zuma Press/TNS)

The U.S. and South Korea are discussing “corresponding measures” to reward North Korea’s steps toward denuclearization, South Korea’s foreign minister said, as President Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un prepare for a possible second summit.

Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told a news conference Wednesday in Seoul that the allies were reviewing various packages of incentives that Washington could bring to the table in the meeting. While Kang provided few details other than to say restarting stalled business projects were being discussed, the term can cover everything from sanctions relief to moves to formalize the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

“Between South Korea and the United States, we are closely consulting what kinds of denuclearization measures should be followed and what the United States and the international community can do as corresponding measures,” she told local media at a New Year’s news conference. She said she expected nuclear talks to pick up speed.

Negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea have sputtered since Trump and Kim signed an agreement during their first meeting in June to “work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” without defining the phrase or setting any deadlines. North Korea argues the deal implied a step-by-step approach, where each its actions are met by U.S. responses, while Trump administration officials assert that Kim accepted his country’s “final, fully verified denuclearization.”

Kim warned in his New Year’s address earlier this month that he could be forced to take a “new path” in talks, if Trump didn’t relax sanctions pressure. Kim pressed for U.S. concessions to reward his decisions last year to halt weapons tests and dismantle some testing facilities, without offering additional steps.

“If the United States takes a credible action in response to our proactive and pre-emptive efforts and responds to the corresponding measures, the relationship between the two countries will move forward at a good and rapid pace through the process of taking more certain and innovative steps is,” Kim said on Jan. 1.

Kang’s remarks come as the U.S. and North Korea prepare for a second summit between the two leaders. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and top Kim aide Kim Yong Chol were expected to meet in Washington as soon as this week, CNN reported Wednesday.

While South Korea wasn’t independently considering resuming cooperation projects at a North Korean mountain resort or the joint factory park in the North, Kang said such moves were part of the “various combination of corresponding measures” being discussed. “Details of the results will be generated during the negotiations between North Korea and the United States,” she said.


© 2019 Bloomberg News

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