Blue House still upbeat on talks

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Blue House still upbeat on talks

President Moon Jae-in’s office on Monday played down differences between the United States and North Korea on the issue of declaring an end to the Korean War, saying it was part of a process to reach an agreement.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Pyongyang on Friday and Saturday and held the first high-level negotiations with North Korean officials since last month’s landmark summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The talks apparently did not go smoothly. The North’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs openly criticized the United States for making what it said was a “unilateral and gangster-like” demand for complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.

The North also said it raised the issue of declaring a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War on the occasion of the 65th anniversary this month of the armistice that ended fighting during the war, but the United States put off the issue.

The North said a formal declaration of the war’s end is a prerequisite for building trust between the two sides.

On Monday, officials in the Blue House acknowledged that there were differences between the United States and North Korea on declaring an end to the war but stressed that those differences were not insurmountable.

“Declaring an end to the war is an issue that President Moon took the lead in raising,” said Kim Eui-kyeom, a spokesman for the Blue House.

“After all, it will boil down to when and how it will be done, and I believe that they are in the process of reaching agreement on all issues, including a declaration of the war’s end.”

Another official told Yonhap News Agency by phone on the condition of anonymity that the United States and North Korea had different thoughts on a declaration, but they were not too big to overcome.

Kim, the Blue House spokesman, also said that the United States and North Korea appeared to be trying to gain “higher ground” in negotiations going forward.

“Nine hours of negotiations were held for two days, and I believe this was the first time that the two sides have put forward what they want in an open manner,” Kim said, adding that neither side wanted to let the talks break down.

Kim added that President Moon would play the role of facilitator.

“Though we can’t disclose every detail, we’re communicating with the United States through various channels,” he said.

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