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North Korea negotiator says more dialogue needed for improved relations

An analyst said it’s likely Pyongyang would begin seeking the removal of the May 24 economic sanctions that restrict South Korean investment.

By Elizabeth Shim
North Korea negotiator says more dialogue needed for improved relations
Kim Yang Gon, director of the United Front Department of the Korean Workers' Party, said on North Korean state media Thursday that he would do his utmost to improve North-South relations. File Photo by Yonhap

SEOUL, Aug. 27 (UPI) -- North Korea's top negotiator at the recent North-South talks said the deal reached Tuesday between Seoul and Pyongyang should be a "stepping stone" to more dialogue – otherwise recent events would have "no major meaning."

Kim Yang Gon, the director of the United Front Department of the Korean Workers' Party, said on North Korean state media Thursday that recent talks established a "spirit of cooperation as a foundation" and that he would do his utmost to improve North-South relations, South Korean outlet Newsis reported.

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"The recent talks resolved the danger of throwing the Korean peninsula and the entire region of Northeast Asia into chaos. It is very fortunate that we were able to able to find a stepping stone toward peace and security, reconciliation and cooperation," the North Korean negotiator said.

Kim said the recent talks "must be seen as more than putting out an urgent fire, otherwise they would have no major meaning."

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"We must boldly step into improving relations, and resolving mistrust and confrontation," he said.

The North Korean negotiator said exchange and cooperation between Seoul and Pyongyang must grow, and that provocations that led to the escalation of tensions must not happen again. His statement did not name Seoul as the agent most responsible for the recent rise in conflict.

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Yang Moo-jin, a professor at South Korea's University of North Korean Studies, said Kim's statement showed a strong will to improve relations with the South, and that the negotiator was signaling that he would be the top official leading the initiative.

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Kim Yong-hyun, a North Korean studies professor at Dongguk University in Seoul, said the speech from the Pyongyang official was checking the sincerity of South Korean President Park Geun-hye's suggestion of a "peace offensive," and once dialogues resume between the two sides it's likely Pyongyang would begin seeking the removal of the May 24 economic sanctions that restrict South Korean investment, and request moves toward the resumption of tourism in Mount Kumgang.

The tours of the Mount Kumgang Tourist Region stopped when a South Korean tourist was fatally shot in July 2008.

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