WASHINGTON - The United States said Wednesday the denuclearization of North Korea must follow the same speed as the advancement of inter-Korean relations, after Seoul announced the opening of a new liaison office.
North and South Korea will open a joint liaison office on Friday aimed at fostering cross-border communications and relations.
In Washington, a State Department official said the U.S. is aware of this development, urging Pyongyang to honor its commitment to finalizing the complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.
“We reaffirmed the Panmunjom Declaration during the Singapore Summit and we did so because progress on inter-Korean relations must happen in lockstep with progress on denuclearization,” a spokesperson told VOA Wednesday.
South Korea President Moon Jae-in has stated the improvement of relations between Pyongyang and Seoul cannot advance separately from resolving North Korea’s nuclear program, added the State Department official.
South Korea's Unification Ministry announced Wednesday the new office will be opened in the North Korean city of Kaesong, located near the border that splits the rivals.
The ministry says the liaison office will become "a round-the-clock consultation and communication channel" aimed at "easing military tensions and establishing peace on the Korean Peninsula."
Both nations will deploy up to 20 officials to staff the office.
The idea for the liaison office grew out of the April summit between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in. It was scheduled to open last month, but was delayed due to an impasse between North Korea and the United States over the pace of North Korea's dismantling of its nuclear weapons program, a promise Kim Jong Un made during his summit with President Donald Trump in Singapore in June.
The situation has since improved after a South Korean presidential delegation traveled to Pyongyang last week and personally met with Kim, who passed on a letter to President Trump offering to engage in a second round of talks.
The United States had considered opening a U.S. liaison office in Pyongyang in the 1990s, according to former State Department officials.
The move at the time was part of diplomatic efforts to engage North Korea that grew out of the U.S. concerns Pyongyang was trying to attain the capacity to build nuclear weapons. A former U.S. official told VOA that Pyongyang backed off from the proposal in the end.