Bold, practical ways needed to resolve N.K. nukes issue: minister nominee

SEOUL-- The nominee for South Korea's unification minister raised the need to come up with "bold and practical" ways to resolve North Korea's nuclear issue during his parliamentary confirmation hearing Thursday.

Cho Myoung-gyon said that Seoul will sternly respond to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations but also make efforts to improve frayed ties and seek to revive dialogue with Pyongyang.

"We need to craft bold and practical ways (to resolve North Korea's nuclear problem) by applying all means available," Cho said at the start of the hearing.

"While seeking to closely cooperating with the international community, (we need to) seek to resolve North Korea's nuclear problem through (an improvement of) inter-Korean ties," he said.

His remark came as President Moon Jae-in vowed to seek a dual-track approach of denuclearizing North Korea, and pursuing engagement and dialogue with Pyongyang.

Earlier this month, Moon said that Seoul is willing to hold talks with the North if it does not make additional nuclear and missile provocations.

On the now-shuttered joint industrial complex, Cho said that Seoul needs to move toward resuming the Kaesong Industrial Complex.

"But as North Korea's nuclear issue is grave, (the resumption of the complex) should come after some progress has been made over the nuclear standoff," he said.

The possibility of the North renouncing its nuclear ambitions remains "very slim for now," the nominee noted. But he underscored that steadfast efforts for Pyongyang's denuclearization might help the recalcitrant regime change course.

"We have to first formulate our own plan to lead the efforts (to resolve the nuclear conundrum), hold close consultations with concerned countries over it and persuade them (to agree to it)," Cho said.

When asked about a possible inter-Korean summit, Cho said having top-level dialogue is crucial to resolving cross-border issues given the North's decision-making mechanism in which its leader calls all the shots.

"But before a summit, conditions for it have to be forged ... We will check them as we explore the possibilities (for the summit)," he said.

Cho also said if appointed, he would actively consider the resumption of non-political inter-Korean exchanges if they are needed to enhance bilateral communication and trust. He indicated such exchanges include the reunions of separated families, which have not been held since 2015 amid heightened tensions caused by Pyongyang's provocations.

Unlike other ministerial nominees, Cho did not draw any criticism for ethical issues.

Cho, who served as a former presidential secretary from 2006-2008, played a role in opening the factory zone in the North Korean border city of Kaesong, in 2004.

In February 2016, Seoul shut down the complex, the symbol of inter-Korean reconciliation, in response to North Korea's nuclear and missile provocations.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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