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South Korea president urges US to declare end of war with 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 during his speech before the United Nations General Assembly on September 26, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by AFP)

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged the US to come to terms with the North’s demand for a formal declaration of an end to the Korean war, amid growing differences between the two major allies.

"Declaring the end of the war is a political declaration that the US would end decades of hostile relations with the North," Moon said Friday in an interview with Britain’s state broadcaster BBC, insisting that “moving towards such a process is the corresponding measure the US should take."

"The North has stopped all nuclear and missile tests, dismantled its only nuclear test site and is now dismantling its missile engine test facilities, and is promising to take steps toward dismantling its Yongbyon nuclear complex if the US takes corresponding measures," the South Korean president further argued as quoted in a transcript released by the presidential Blue House.

Moon’s remarks, which were made just ahead of his departure on Saturday for a tour of European capitals, further underlines rising differences between Seoul and Washington, which maintains 28,500 military forces stationed in South Korea to “defend” it from its northern rival.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha told the nation’s legislators earlier this week that Seoul was reconsidering its own sanctions relief against Pyongyang. However, reports said she later backtracked, with her ministry announcing that no active review of its North Korea policy was in the works.

Reacting to Kang's remarks however, US President Donald Trump stated, "They won't do it without our approval. They do nothing without our approval," referring to the South Korean government.

Washington, which led international measures to impose economic sanctions on North Korea last year, has been adamant about persisting sanctions on the North until Pyongyang's "final, fully verified denuclearization."

Trump also asserted last Tuesday that he plans to hold a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un following his country’s upcoming midterm elections in November.

He did not identify the possible location of their next summit but also didn’t discount the suggestion of his Mar-a-Lago golf estate in Palm Beach, Florida.

The American president also described the recent trip by his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Pyongyang as productive, saying he thinks “incredible” progress has been made in US talks with the North.

Pompeo, who had a short trip to the Asian country last Sunday, told a news briefing in Seoul that Kim had agreed to allow inspectors into the country’s key nuclear and missile testing sites.

The US has refused to declare an end to the 1950-53 Korean war – when hostilities halted with a ceasefire instead of a peace treaty – insisting that the North must first take more steps towards giving up its nuclear arsenal.

However, Pyongyang -- which has long maintained that it needed nuclear arms as an only viable counter-measure against a potential US military invasion -- has vowed only to work towards denuclearization "of the Korean peninsula," demanding simultaneous, reciprocal efforts by Washington, pointing to a peace declaration as its first priority.

North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho said during his address to the UN General Assembly on September 29 that continued sanctions against the North are just deepening the rift of mistrust in the US.

He insisted that there is “no way” his country will abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons unilaterally as long as Washington sticks to sanctions against Pyongyang.

South Korea says the two Koreas will hold high-level talks at the border on Monday to discuss how to implement the agreements made at last month's Pyongyang summit, when Moon and Kim vowed to meet again in Seoul "at an early date."

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