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South Korea open to dialogue with North despite latest snub, report says

South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) has previously said that COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy could be a means of persuading North Korea to return to the table. File Photo by Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/UPI
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (R) has previously said that COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy could be a means of persuading North Korea to return to the table. File Photo by Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps/UPI | License Photo

June 25 (UPI) -- South Korea will not give up the pursuit of inter-Korean dialogue despite multiple statements from Pyongyang signaling disinterest in talks, according to a local press report.

A South Korean foreign ministry official who met with local reporters said Friday that the "possibility of dialogue is still open" with North Korea, Yonhap reported.

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The ministry added that the government believes talks remain an option because of the "lack of harsh rhetoric" from Kim Yo Jong and North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Son Gwon in this week's statements. North Korea also did not insinuate it would undertake provocations, according to the ministry.

Seoul "currently expects that North Korea will come to the table for in-person dialogue," the official said.

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"A lot of things can start from there," the source added, according to Yonhap.

Report of South Korean support of dialogue comes after U.S. diplomat Sung Kim said Biden administration officials are willing to meet "anywhere, anytime" with Kim Jong Un's negotiators.

Kim Yo Jong has said the United States was misinterpreting signals. Ri said a few days later that dialogue is pointless and would lead to "nowhere."

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The South Korean official said Friday that the government is seeking ways to restart talks based on North Korea-related agreements included in the U.S.-South Korea joint statement issued last month at the White House.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has said previously that COVID-19 vaccine diplomacy could be a means of persuading North Korea to return to the table. Moon has pledged $200 million to international vaccine alliance Gavi. The group is expected to deliver AstraZeneca vaccines to the North.

Dr. Kee B. Park, director of Korea Health Policy Project at Harvard Medical School, said Friday at the 16th Jeju Forum that Gavi officials could vaccinate the entire country in four to six months, Seoul Shinmun reported.

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Vaccine deliveries to North Korea may have been delayed, however, according to the report.

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