SEOUL, South Korea should show North Korea possible economic incentives it could get in exchange for giving up its nuclear program so as to reassure Pyongyang that denuclearization is the right way to go, the unification minister said Monday.

"It is necessary for us to show that we are actually moving in that direction so as to reassure that denuclearization is the right way to go," Cho Myoung-gyon told a local meeting in Seoul, referring to a possibility of economic development that would follow the North's denuclearization.

He reminded the attendees that President Moon Jae-in made the point clear in his speech to the North Korean people in Pyongyang in September that the future is bright for them if its regime gives up its nuclear weapons program.

Cho also emphasized the importance of Seoul making necessary preparations for economic cooperation with the North not to be left behind in case global sanctions are lifted.

"There is no guarantee (for South Korea) to have an opportunity after the nuclear issue is resolved and sanctions are lifted just because it is the same Korean people," he said. "The reality is that we could be put at a disadvantage."

South Korea is eager to expand inter-Korean economic cooperation, believing it could help the denuclearization of the North, but Washington remains firm that sanctions will remain in place until the North completely gives up its nuclear weapons program.

The difference has led Seoul to halt some major joint projects with the North, including railway and road connections over their border.

Denuclearization talks between North Korea and the U.S. have been all but stalemated since their historic summit in June as they appear at odds over how to rid the North of its nuclear weapons program.

The North wants the U.S. to provide corresponding concessions in return for what it sees as substantive denuclearization steps in recent months. Washington rejects it, saying that it wants more tangible steps from Pyongyang.

Cho voiced concerns over the stalled process, attributing the impasse to a failure to make a compromise. He also emphasized that North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's willingness to seek economic development in exchange for denuclearization is stronger than ever.

Source: Yonhap News Agency