Deputy Unification Minister plans to visit the United States in September

SEOUL, Aug. 1 (Yonhap) — Vice Unification Minister Choi Young-joon plans to visit the United States next month to coordinate policy on North Korea as South Korea seeks dialogue and reconciliation with North Korea after Pyongyang restored inter-Korean lines of communication, ministry officials said Sunday.

According to officials, Choi has taken the necessary steps for a trip to the United States, expected in September, such as receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and applying for exemption from coronavirus quarantine.

“The Vice Minister’s visit to the United States is part of the effort to follow up on the May summit between South Korea and the United States, and to form a consensus on North Korea policy, following the lines of communication between the Koreans recently,” a ministry official said.

North Korea last week restored four direct lines of communication with South Korea, which it cut in June last year, in anger over anti-Pyongyang propaganda leaflets sent by South Korean activists to North Korea across the border.

The restoration was carried out under the agreement reached by the South Korean President, Moon Jae-in, and the head of the North Korean State Affairs Commission, Kim Jong-un, after exchanging a series of personal messages, which raised hope for a new round of détente between the two parties.

Since the restoration, the South has submitted a formal proposal to the North to discuss setting up video conferencing systems for inter-Korean dialogues, amid the pandemic, while trying to outline issues to be discussed with Pyongyang.

Choi held high-level bilateral consultations with Sung Kim, the US special representative for North Korea, when he visited Seoul in June. When US Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited Seoul last month, the two sides also agreed to continue close contact.

If Choi’s trip is planned, it will make him the first high-ranking official in the Unification Ministry to travel to the United States since the outbreak of the epidemic.

Sacha Woodward

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