SEOUL, South Korea's chief presidential security advisor voiced hope that next week's inter-Korean summit will give fresh impetus to denuclearization talks between Washington and Pyongyang that have recently experienced "temporary difficulty."
During his keynote speech at an annual security forum, Chung Eui-yong also said that during the summit slated to occur in Pyongyang from Sept. 18-20, the two Koreas will push to reach a comprehensive agreement to build mutual trust and forestall any armed clashes.
The third summit between President Moon Jae-in and North Korea leader Kim Jong-un was arranged amid a perceived impasse in U.S.-North Korea negotiations, due apparently to their differences over the sequence of the denuclearization process.
"While things had been smoothly moving forward, there came a temporary difficulty in the process of denuclearization consultations between the North and the U.S.," Chung said at the opening ceremony of the Seoul Defense Dialogue hosted by the defense ministry.
"At this meeting (in Pyongyang next week), the two leaders will have deeper and concrete ways for denuclearization. (We) hope that through such efforts, there will be a fresh momentum again for the North-U.S. dialogue that has recently faced temporary difficulty," he added.
That difficulty is seen as having stemmed from Pyongyang's insistence that Washington first agree to the declaration of a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War and Washington's demand that the communist state take tangible denuclearization steps, such as making a full declaration of its nuclear and missile stockpiles.
During his speech, Chung also reiterated that during his recent visit to the North, he reconfirmed Kim's avowed commitment to the "complete denuclearization" of the peninsula.
"While saying that his deep trust in President Trump has not changed at all, Chairman Kim expressed his strong will to end the long history of hostility between the North and U.S., and realize denuclearization within the first term of President Trump," Chung said.
"It is the first time that a North Korean supreme leader has mentioned a timeline for denuclearization. ... Our delegation got the impression that Chairman Kim was trying to actively communicate his resolve to denuclearize to the international community," he added.
Chung also noted that the two Koreas are moving toward an "operational arms control" stage beyond the stage of building bilateral confidence.
"There have been concrete (inter-Korean) consultations over the issue of halting all hostile acts against each other on land, sea and air to fundamentally address the danger of war, and over the issue of establishing a peace zone in the West Sea to prevent armed conflicts and ensure safe fishing activities," he said.
"The two Koreas are making an attempt at virtually an entry level of operational arms control beyond the stage of confidence building," he added.
Experts have said that the arms control process might proceed largely in three steps -- either in a linear progression or in a way that the steps are combined together to reach the disarmament goal. The first step, they said, is confidence building, while the second and third steps are "operational and structural" arms control processes, respectively.
Operational arms control refers to the repositioning of front-line military equipment or facilities to make them less threatening to a potential adversary, while structural control means cutting the numbers of troops and weapons systems.
In related comments during the forum, Seoul's Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk noted that the two Koreas are pushing for arms control in line with efforts toward "practical" confidence-building.
The two Koreas have taken a set of confidence-building steps, such as fully restoring their military communication lines and resuming high-level defense dialogue.
"While maintaining firm readiness to respond to actual security threats, our military will prepare for measures necessary for arms control in consideration of changes in the security environment of the peninsula and the region, and the implementation of military confidence-building measures," Suh said.
The vice minister added that Seoul will also prepare to gradually push for cross-border consultations on operational and structural arms control in tune with progress on efforts for denuclearization and a peace regime on the peninsula.
Before Chung's speech, Seoul's Defense Minister Song Young-moo delivered congratulatory remarks in which he noted that the peninsula, the last remaining vestige of the Cold War, faces a "historic turning point toward an era of peace and cooperation."
"The Republic of Korea (South Korea) will never miss out on a peace opportunity that we have labored to foster ... We cannot stop here or repeat the 70 years of conflict and antagonism," the minister said.
"The South Korean government is focusing all of its energy (on the peace efforts), believing that peace on the Korean Peninsula will be a touchstone for peace in the entire world," he added.
Source: Yonhap News Agency