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Newt Gingrich: Differing approaches to North Korea are working

By Elizabeth Shim
Newt Gingrich: Differing approaches to North Korea are working
U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See Callista Gingrich (C) and her husband Newt Gingrich (C-L) stand in a line to meet Pope Francis during an audience with diplomats at the Vatican on Monday. Photo by Andrew Medichini/EPA-EFE

Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich says U.S. President Donald Trump's North Korea policy is working and differing approaches to Pyongyang, in Seoul and Washington, are well matched.

Gingrich, 74, told South Korean newspaper Korea Economic Daily he is not worried the United States and South Korea will run into a dispute over how to handle North Korea, because each side complements the other in policy.

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The U.S. politician said America's toughness and South Korea's rational approach are coming together to make an outstanding combination when dealing with the North Korea nuclear issue, according to the South Korean press report.

Gingrich, who said he is in frequent communication with Trump at the White House, said Trump administration officials were excited about North Korea's interest in participating in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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In Washington, North Korea specialists and policymakers saw the Kim Jong Un regime's willingness to send athletes as a sign pressure is working.

North Korea's conciliatory approach was seen as a result of the sanctions' impact and the "maximum pressure" policy to the regime's nuclear weapons program.

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Gingrich expressed confidence that Trump, in his first term, will make visible progress on the North Korean nuclear issue.

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The former U.S. lawmaker also eased concerns of a rift between Trump and Seoul, and said Trump thinks Korea is an important ally and a great model of success, according to the report.

South Korean officials are scheduled to hold high-level talks with North Korea in Panmunjom on Tuesday, but Seoul may be bracing itself for difficult demands from Pyongyang.

Local television network JTBC reported Monday challenging North Korea proposals could include reducing the scale of joint military exercises in the South, or calling for a reduction of U.S. strategic assets deployed to the peninsula.

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The talks may be being met with approval at the Vatican, where Pope Francis on Monday said communication is the way to peace.

"It is of paramount importance to support every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world," Pope Francis said in his annual "state of the world address."

The Pope called on nations around the world to support the dialogue.

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