South Korea will push for talks with North Korea, including summits, this year to deepen inter-Korean relations and help stalled denuclearization talks move forward between Washington and Pyongyang, the unification ministry said Tuesday.
"In close coordination with the U.S., (we) will push for inter-Korean talks to help the U.S. and North Korea meet again and reach an agreement on denuclearization and corresponding measures," the ministry said in a report detailing its 2019 policy direction.
The ministry said that the government will also continue to push for "close communications between the leaders of the South and the North" to advance inter-Korean relations, and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula.
It, however, did not mention detailed schedules for such inter-Korean talks.
Since the breakdown of the Hanoi summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un last month, Seoul has expressed its willingness to play a "mediating role" to break the stalemate in their denuclearization talks.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader Kim met in April, May and September last year and agreed to reduce tensions and deepen cooperation in various areas.
Seoul has claimed that it will seek active cross-border projects in a bid to create a virtuous circle in which improving inter-Korean relations can contribute to the denuclearization process.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (L) and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un chat during a luncheon at a guesthouse on Lake Samji, near the North's northern border, on Sept. 20, 2018, in this file photo. Moon ended his three-day visit to North Korea with an excursion to Mount Paekdu, the tallest mountain on the Korean Peninsula, with Kim. The leaders agreed during their summit talks on a wide range of steps to ease cross-border tensions. (pool photo) (Yonhap)
In a related move, the ministry said that the government will take preparatory steps for economic cooperation between the two Koreas. In particular, it is eyeing to reopen an industrial park in the North's border town of Kaesong and tours to Mount Kumgang on the North's east coast.
"In preparation of the resumption of the Kaesong industrial park and the Mount Kumgang tours, (we) will take preparatory steps and create the (right) environment within the framework of global sanctions," the ministry said.
South Korea shut down the industrial park in 2016 after North Korea's missile and nuclear provocations. Tours to Mount Kumgang were suspended in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was killed by a North Korean soldier.
The leaders of the two Koreas agreed in September to resume the two projects when conditions are met. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's address that he is willing to restart those projects without any preconditions.
Washington, however, remains wary over their resumption, fearing they could undermine the global sanctions regime against Pyongyang at a time when denuclearization talks are under way.
Seoul earlier said that it will consult with the United States on the matter. A senior State Department official recently said that the U.S. isn't considering waiving sanctions for the two suspended cross-border projects.
On a humanitarian front, the ministry said it will seek to hold various types of reunions of families separated by the 1950-53 Korean War, ranging from face-to-face meetings to video calls and exchanges of vide messages.
Seoul earlier said it is seeking to arrange video calls for the separated families and that it is in discussion with the U.S. to get a necessary sanctions exemption. The U.N. Security Council recently granted a sanctions waiver on equipment needed to be sent into the North for the event.
The separated families issue is one of the most pressing humanitarian matters for the Koreas as more aging Koreans have passed away without a chance to meet their kin across the border.
South and North Korea held their latest face-to-face family reunions at the Mount Kumgang resort in August. It was the first such event in about three years. (Yonhap)