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South Korea says ‘too early to be optimistic’ about North

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in (photo by AFP)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in says he has no plans to ease sanctions on the rival North only because of Pyongyang’s offer to discuss denuclearization with the United States.

“We are only at the starting line,” Moon told the parliament’s political party leaders at the presidential Blue House on Wednesday.

He said it was “too early to be optimistic” and that there would be no let-up in the sanctions or pressure against North Korea.

Moon made the remarks after his envoys revealed the offer of talks by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following their return from a historic trip to Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (R) shakes hands with South Korean chief delegate Chung Eui-yong (C), during their meeting in Pyongyang, on March 5, 2018. (Photo via AFP)

Moon stressed the significance of maintaining close co-operation with Washington, saying, “I think denuclearization talks will become feasible only when South Korea and the US take common positions.”

He said he had discussed all steps regarding North Korean engagement with US President Donald Trump.

He also rejected allegations of a behind-the-scenes agreement with Pyongyang in exchange for its agreement to come to the negotiating table.

“There has been no backroom deal whatsoever with the North,” Moon said, as quoted by a spokesman for the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party. “There will be no such thing as a gift to the North.”

China welcomes engagement

Meanwhile, China guardedly welcomed an agreement by the two Koreas to hold a historic summit, calling on both parties to “seize the current opportunity” to bring about the denuclearization of the peninsula.

In a late Tuesday statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang praised the “positive outcomes” of a meeting between South Korean envoys and Kim in Pyongyang.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (2nd-L) meets with a South Korean delegation, in Pyongyang, March 5, 2018. (Photo via AFP)

Geng added, “We hope that all relevant parties can seize the current opportunity, work for the shared goal, and make concerted efforts to promote the process of denuclearization of the Peninsula and politically resolving the Korean Peninsula issue.”

“China is willing to continue to play its due role to this end,” he said.

The two Koreas have reportedly agreed to hold a summit between top leaders Moon and Kim Jong-un in the Demilitarized Zone in late April.

Pyongyang has expressed willingness to halt its nuclear and missile tests if its security is guaranteed.

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