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South Korea: 'Too early to be optimistic' on North

March 7, 2018

News that North Korea is willing to hold denuclearization talks was even welcomed by US President Donald Trump. But his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in has sounded a note of caution.

Südkorea PK Moon Jae-in
Image: Reuters/Jung Yeon-Je

South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Wednesday said it was "too early to be optimistic" about denuclearization discussions between North Korea and the United States.

"We are only at the starting line," Moon said after a meeting with political party leaders.

During a landmark meeting between South Korean officials and Kim Jong Un on Monday, the North Korean leader expressed his intention to denuclearize the Korean peninsula if the North's security was guaranteed.

In April, North and South Korea will hold the first talks between the two countries' leaders since 2007.

Read more: North Korea: From war to nuclear weapons

Korea: Ready to talk

In a statement released by the Blue House, Moon said South Korea's goal was the denuclearization of North Korea.

"We cannot have things like the prevention of nuclear proliferation or a moratorium as a final goal," he said.

No 'presents for the North'

But Moon reiterated that South Korea would not be easing sanctions against North Korea to facilitate a summit with Pyongyang.

"The president said just because talks have begun doesn't mean sanctions pressure will be eased or lifted. There will not be any 'presents' for the North, either," Shin Yong-hyun of opposition party Bareun Mirae quoted Moon as saying.

Read more: Guns, gold and gas. What UN sanctions target North Korea?

North Korea is 'sincere'

The South Korean president said that he believed US President Donald Trump was "positive about the results of the North Korea visit" from what he had seen in the news and on social media.

"I really believe they are sincere," Trump said at a White House news conference on Tuesday.

Read more: Opinion: Unlike Donald Trump, North Korea has a plan

Trump's intelligence chief, Dan Coats, was less optimistic, saying he had "very, very low confidence" that Kim Jong Un would give up nuclear weapons.

"Maybe this is a breakthrough. I seriously doubt it," Coats said at a Senate hearing.

Next steps

The South Korean delegation that met with Kim Jong Un will fly to Washington on Thursday.

South Korea's presidential national security director, Chung Eui-yong, said he had a message from Kim Jong Un that he would deliver to the US.

After the US trip, Chung is due to visit China and Russia, while Suh Hoon, the head of South Korea's intelligence agency, will go to Japan to brief officials on the talks with North Korea.

law/rt (AFP, dpa, Reuters)