South Korea's top diplomat said Thursday that the country will maintain close coordination with the United States in seeking dialogue with North Korea, and reaffirmed that inter-Korean talks will not go separately from the allies' joint denuclearization efforts.
Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha made the remark during her meeting with Marc Knapper, acting U.S. ambassador to South Korea, and Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, commander of the U.S. Forces Korea (USFK).
"You know that we are responding to North Korea's New Year's message, which gave some opening and signals for dialogue primarily on their intention to come to the PyeongChang Olympic Games," Kang said.
"Moving forward, of course, we will be in close touch with you. ... We have much work ahead that will require us to stay closely in touch," she added.
On Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in a New Year's Day speech that Pyongyang is willing to send a delegation to the Olympics that will be held in the South from Feb. 9-25 and is open to dialogue with Seoul over the issue.
In response, South Korea proposed holding high-level talks next Tuesday. On Wednesday, the North reopened the suspended inter-Korean communication line, raising prospects that the two sides will sit down soon to discuss the North's possible participation in the games.
Kang reaffirmed that South Korea will not pursue inter-Korean talks separately from efforts to deal with the North's nuclear and missile threats.
"My president had made it clear in responding to North Korea's messages ... that (inter-Korean contacts) cannot go separately from our joint endeavors to deal with North Korea's nuclear and missile threats," she said.
Kang also emphasized the president's call for the foreign ministry to "work very closely with our allies and to ensure that South-North track moves simultaneously with our endeavors to come to terms with North Korea's nuclear and missile issues."
Knapper expressed appreciation for the president's commitment to the denuclearization of North Korea.
"We very much appreciate your president's commitment to advancing our shared goals of denuclearization, along with the aspiration for North-South dialogue," he said.
Brooks underlined the importance of the two countries' strong alliance and expressed confidence that the alliance will get "stronger" as Seoul and Washington work together to deal with challenges lying ahead. (Yonhap)