Unification minister goes stateside to talk peace

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Unification minister goes stateside to talk peace

South Korea’s unification minister left for the United States on Tuesday for a five-day visit amid speculation over a possible split between the two allies on how to achieve North Korea’s denuclearization.

Minister Cho Myoung-gyon is likely to meet Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, as well as other officials and experts, to discuss the North’s denuclearization and inter-Korean relations, the ministry said.

“This is a meaningful trip that comes at a very important time,” Cho told reporters before boarding a plane bound for the United States at Incheon International Airport, west of Seoul.

“In Washington and New York, I will meet government and parliamentary officials, and many other experts to discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the establishment of peace,” he added.

His trip comes amid apparent friction between the allies over how to enforce global sanctions imposed on North Korea amid stalling denuclearization talks.

South Korea has been eager to expand cross-border exchanges, which have been blocked by sanctions on Pyongyang. The United States has said that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely gives up on its nuclear weapons program. Joint projects between South and North Korea, such as railway and road connections over their border, are facing apparent opposition from the United States.

On Monday, the two Koreas held a meeting but failed to produce dates for joint surveys of their roads that are needed to properly connect them as agreed upon in a summit in April.

Cho will likely emphasize Seoul’s argument that improving inter-Korean relations could benefit the denuclearization process and ask the United States to cooperate in easing sanctions on key cross-border projects.

During his five-day stay, Cho is also expected to meet Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and visit the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

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