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U.S officials in Seoul discuss inter-Korea affairs

U.S officials in Seoul discuss inter-Korea affairs
South Korea has proposed the resumption of tourism to North Korea to U.S. officials. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

Feb. 10 (UPI) -- U.S. and South Korean officials met on Monday to discuss inter-Korea relations and U.S.-North Korea dialogue, Seoul's foreign ministry said.

The meeting is part of the larger activities of a bilateral "working" or working-level group that have been ongoing between the two sides, South Korean news service Seoul Pyongyang News reported.

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The leading U.S. delegate, Deputy Special Representative for North Korea Policy Alex Wong, met with Lee Do-hoon, South Korea's special representative for Korean Peninsula peace and security affairs. While in Seoul, Wong will hold meetings with South Korean Unification Ministry officials, according to the report.

Wong's trip to Seoul comes a week after two senior South Korean officials made unannounced trips to Washington to discuss inter-Korea cooperation, including independent South Korean tourism to North Korea's Mount Kumgang. Group South Korean travel to the region was suspended after 2008, when North Korean soldiers fatally shot a wandering South Korean tourist.

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South Korean President Moon Jae-in's proposal of independent tourism came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ordered the removal of South Korea-made facilities in Kumgang. Moon's administration has said independent tourism initiatives do not violate sanctions, but the United States has not supported the idea, according to South Korean news service Tongil News.

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North Korea has yet to respond to Seoul's tourism proposal.

Pro-engagement South Korean groups have criticized the lack of progress, including a ban against the resumption of factory activities at the Kaesong Industrial Complex in the North.

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The South's Committee for Implementing the June 15 Joint Declaration in Gwangju said Monday the government should push forward with inter-Korea exchange, including restarting Kaesong, Newsis reported.

The committee said Kaesong "contributed significantly to the peace settlement in the military and economic sphere and enabled meetings between North and South."

"The result was an understanding of each other," the committee said.

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Seoul shuttered the Kaesong complex in 2016 as concerns rose the revenue was being used to fund North Korea's nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

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