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South Korea official: U.S.-North Korea negotiations to 'start soon'

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea official: U.S.-North Korea negotiations to 'start soon'
South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong spoke at a parliamentary hearing in Seoul on Tuesday. Pool Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/EPA-EFE

Aug. 28 (UPI) -- A South Korean presidential aide said Tuesday he expects U.S.-North Korea negotiations to resume, following U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to not send Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang.

South Korean National Security Adviser Chung Eui-yong, who previously made an appearance at the White House in March to tell the media Trump had agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un, said he expects Washington and Pyongyang to hold talks "next month," The Korea Times reported Tuesday.

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"Because there is the will for dialogue on both sides [United States and North Korea], we expect good negotiations to start soon," Chung told South Korean lawmakers, according to the report.

The statement from Chung comes a day after The Washington Post reported the reason for the cancellation was a letter from top North Korean official Kim Yong Chol to Pompeo.

RELATED South Korea's Moon Jae-in will not attend Russian forum, Seoul says

Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of the Korean Workers' Party, reportedly sent the "secret letter" to let Pompeo know the visit will not likely succeed, according to The Post.

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In Seoul on Tuesday, Chung said the "Sentosa Agreement" signed by Trump and Kim in Singapore shows commitment on both sides.

"Given the pace at which the situation is developing, and the gravity of the issue, we see some amount of difficulties as unavoidable," Chung said.

RELATED North Korea defectors urge new perspective of Kim regime

Chung also told South Korean lawmakers President Moon Jae-in could be headed to Pyongyang mid-September.

Suh Hoon, South Korea's intelligence chief, told lawmakers complete denuclearization is the goal.

"If there are 100 nuclear warheads, we will remove all 100," Suh said, adding a "phase one" of the process would be to remove about 60 percent of total warheads.

RELATED Trump asks Pompeo to cancel 4th North Korea trip

Suh also said the national intelligence service told the presidential Blue House about illicit coal shipments in October.

Three South Korean companies illegally imported North Korean coal and pig iron in 2017, violating international sanctions adopted in August of last year.

Shipments of North Korean coal into South Korea were smuggled into the country after the products were transshipped at a Russian port, according to South Korea's Customs Office.

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