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Korean Peninsula denuclearization still distant target: South Korea’s Moon

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 speaks during the Korea National Prayer Breakfast in Goyang, South Korea, on March 8, 2018. (Photo by AP)

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in says a recent North Korean proposal for holding disarmament talks is a positive step but insists there is a long way to go to achieve a full denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Both Seoul and Washington, another major party involved in a current standoff with North Korea over its weapons program, have expressed their support for talks over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

Pyongyang announced its readiness for such negotiations during a recent visit by a South Korean delegation, with authorities saying they would even engage in talks with the United States to discuss the country’s nuclear program.

Moon said Thursday that the outcome of his envoys' North Korea trip “was a big step toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

He, however, said that a full nuclear disarmament of the Korean Peninsula would be a distant target.

“We've overcome one critical moment. But there are many critical moments that we still have to go through before reaching the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a permanent peace,” Moon said in a meeting with church leaders.

The South Korean leader added that North’s proposal for talks was not enough for denuclearization, stressing “a strong support” by the US government was needed to achieve the goal.

The remarks came as Seoul has dispatched two senior officials to Washington to brief the White House on the outcome of their recent visit to North Korea.

This photo taken on March 5, 2018, and released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on March 6, 2018, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-un (L) shaking hands with South Korean chief delegator Chung Eui-yong, who traveled as the envoy of the South's President Moon Jae-in, during their meeting in Pyongyang. (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump said Pyongyang’s offer of talks was “possible progress" but reiterated that it “may be false hope.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also indicated that Washington had seen “potentially positive signals coming from North Korea.”

It has to be seen whether the US would accept North Korea’s offer as the two countries have repeatedly threatened each other with a nuclear attack over the past months.

The standoff was triggered by North Korea’s decision last summer to begin a series of tests for its long-range missiles and a powerful nuclear test, which prompted increased international pressure on Pyongyang to give up its weapons program.

North Korea says it will not abandon its weapons program which Pyongyang says acts as a deterrent against any possible aggression by Washington or its allies.

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