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SEOUL - The president of the Republic of Korea said on Thursday that many "critical moments" still lie ahead to end the nuclear crisis despite the Democratic People"s Republic of Korea"s recent outreach to Seoul and Washington.
Moon Jae-in spoke before two senior Seoul officials left for the United States to brief officials about the outcome of their recent visit to Pyongyang.
Chung Eui-yong, top security adviser for Moon, and Suh Hoon, director of the National Intelligence Service, will meet senior US officials on security and intelligence affairs.
The Seoul officials said Pyongyang had offered talks with the US over normalizing ties and denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. The ROK said the DPRK also agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests during such future talks.
According to the Seoul officials, Pyongyang said it has no reason to possess nuclear weapons as long as military threats against the country are removed and its security is guaranteed. That"s the same position Pyongyang has long maintained to justify its nuclear program or call for the withdrawal of 28,500 US troops and a halt to annual US-ROK military drills as a condition for scrapping its nuclear program. The DPRK sees the allies" drills as an invasion rehearsal.
Choi Hyun-soo, spokeswoman of Seoul"s Defense Ministry, said the military will announce the schedule for the joint drills after the Pyeongchang Paralympics, which started on Friday and run through March 18.
"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.
Moon still described the outcome of his envoys" DPRK trip "a big step toward denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula" that was possible with "a strong support" by the US government.
It"s unclear whether the US would accept the DPRK"s reported offer for talks. US President Donald Trump expressed both hope and skepticism, calling Pyongyang"s move "possible progress" that also "may be false hope".
Seoul and Washington plan to kick off their delayed springtime drills next month, and how Pyongyang reacts will affect the reconciliation mood revived by the its participation in last month"s Winter Olympics held in the ROK.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Japan"s policy of pressuring the DPRK will not change.
Moon and DPRK"s top leader Kim Jong-un are to meet at the border truce village of Panmunjom in late April, when the ROK-US drills would likely be still under way. If realized, the Moon-Kim meeting would mark the rivals" third summit talks since their 1945 division, according to Moon"s office.
Reuters - Xinhua