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U.S., South Korea hold first working group meeting on North Korea

By
Elizabeth Shim
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke publicly of the need for better coordination on North Korea between Washington and Seoul on Tuesday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo spoke publicly of the need for better coordination on North Korea between Washington and Seoul on Tuesday. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

Nov. 21 (UPI) -- The United States and South Korea held the first meeting of its bilateral working group on North Korea in Washington on Tuesday, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for greater coordination.

The working group, the first of its kind under the Trump administration, was created following remarks from South Korean President Moon Jae-in regarding North Korea sanctions. Moon had called for the easing of sanctions, while the United States maintains pressure should continue against Pyongyang until complete denuclearization.

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South Korean news service Dailian reported Tuesday the two sides agreed to work closely together, and progress in inter-Korea relations should take place in tandem with denuclearization.

Seoul agreed to work toward complete denuclearization with the United States and to enforce United Nations Security Council sanctions resolutions.

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The U.S. State Department stressed the importance of the alliance with South Korea in the denuclearization process and in the enforcement of North Korea sanctions.

But the airing of differences may also have taken place on Tuesday -- the South had agreed with the North to make progress on an inter-Korea railroad, but Washington has yet to warm to the idea.

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"We will work closely with the United States and stakeholder countries to prepare for the joint survey of the inter-Korea railroad, and the groundbreaking ceremony, per North-South agreements," a South Korean government source told Dailian.

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The survey, scheduled to take place in November, was canceled because of U.S. concerns, according to Yonhap.

In his first public statement on U.S.-South Korea coordination concerns, Pompeo said the two sides must stay in synchronized on North Korea denuclearization.

"We have made clear to the Republic of Korea that we do want to make sure that peace on the peninsula and the denuclearization of North Korea aren't lagging behind the increase in the amount of inter-relationship between the two Koreas," Pompeo said. "We view them as tandem, as moving forward together. We view them as important parallel processes."

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High-level talks between the United States and North Korea are expected to take place next week, after the Thanksgiving holidays.

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