UPDATE : 2019.11.13 WED 15:15
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Unification minister travels to N. Korea to visit inter-Korean liaison office

Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul crossed the inter-Korean border Wednesday to visit a joint liaison office in North Korea's border town of Kaesong in his first trip to the communist state since taking office last month.

Kim plans to meet South Korean officials stationed there and check progress in their work before returning to Seoul in the afternoon.

This photo, taken on May 7, 2019, shows Unification Minister Kim Yeon-chul entering a conference room for a Cabinet meeting at the government complex in Seoul.

"This visit is aimed at encouraging our staff working at the liaison office as it has been playing an important role in inter-Korean relations," a ministry official said on condition of anonymity.

The official added that Kim does not have plans to have consultations with North Koreans during his visit.

Still, his trip draws keen attention as it comes amid stagnated inter-Korean exchanges apparently tied down by little progress in denuclearization talks between Pyongyang and Washington.

On Saturday, North Korea fired multiple projectiles into the East Sea on Saturday, raising tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

Major cross-border projects have been put on hold for months, with the North not responding to South Korean President Moon Jae-in's offer for a fourth summit with its leader Kim Jong-un.

The two Koreas launched the liaison office in September and agreed to hold a meeting of its co-heads every week to discuss cross-border issues.

The weekly meeting, however, has not been held for 10 consecutive weeks.

In mid-March, North Korea abruptly withdrew all of its staff from the liaison office without providing a clear reason, though some of them were sent back to the office days later.

Experts said the withdrawal might be aimed at pressuring South Korea to do more to persuade the United States to lower its demands in the stalled denuclearization negotiations.

Nuclear negotiations have been stalled since the second summit between North Korean leader Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump in February ended without an agreement due to differences over Pyongyang's denuclearization steps and Washington's sanctions relief.(Yonhap)

Kim Jung-mi  edt@koeapost.com

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