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Diplomacy with North Korea worked to reduce tensions, Seoul says

South Korea said Wednesday tensions were mitigated with the North because of government policy. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI
South Korea said Wednesday tensions were mitigated with the North because of government policy. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

April 28 (UPI) -- South Korea credited its diplomacy with North Korea for stemming the rising tide of tensions after Pyongyang demolished a joint liaison office and killed a South Korean fisheries officer.

Unification Minister Lee In-young said in his preface to the "2021 Unification White Paper" published Wednesday that the efforts of the administration of President Moon Jae-in paid off in the aftermath of last year's incidents, News 1 reported.

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"The fact that the tension between the two Koreas did not snowball into a bigger crisis shows this is the result of the government's consistent efforts and will for peace on the Korean Peninsula," Lee said.

The South Korean official said that while the destruction of the liaison office and the death of the South Korean fisheries officer in North Korea were "unacceptable incidents" for South Koreans "eager for peace," he also claimed North Korea acted with restraint and proposed reconciliation.

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Kim Jong Un apologized for the killing of the South Korean officer in September. The North also "deferred" military activities targeting the South, Lee said.

"New opportunities and crises that will determine the fate of the Korean Peninsula are converging before us," the minister said.

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"The development of inter-Korean relations promotes U.S.-North Korea relations, and advances in U.S.-North Korea relations leads to the process of a virtuous cycle of peace on the Korean Peninsula," Lee said in the preface.

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North Korea has not cooperated with the South despite Seoul's offers of talks and humanitarian assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last year, just 613 South Koreans traveled to the North, down from 9,835 in 2019, the white paper said, according to Seoul Shinmun.

The South Koreans who traveled to the North last year mostly were government employees affiliated with the joint liaison office in Kaesong, according to Yonhap.

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The office was demolished June 16.

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