South Korea's Moon urges Biden admin to follow up on Kim, Trump summit


South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks during an online New Year news conference with local and foreign journalists at the Presidential Blue House in Seoul, South Korea, January 18, 2021. Jeon Heon-Kyun/Pool via REUTERS

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Monday that U.S. President-elect Joe Biden should hold talks with North Korea to build on progress that President Donald Trump had made with leader Kim Jong Un.

Biden takes office on Wednesday amid a prolonged stalemate in negotiations aimed at dismantling North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes in exchange for U.S. sanctions relief.

Moon, who had offered to be a mediator between Pyongyang and Washington, said he will seek an early chance to promote North Korea as Biden's foreign policy priority so that he will follow through on an agreement reached by Trump and Kim at their first summit in Singapore.

The two leaders vowed to establish new relations and work toward complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula in that joint statement, but their second summit and ensuing working-level talks fell apart.

"The inauguration of the Biden administration would provide a turning point to newly start U.S.-North Korea dialogue, South-North dialogue, to inherit the achievements that were made under the Trump administration," Moon told a New Year news conference.

"The dialogues can pick up the pace if we restart from the Singapore declaration and seek concrete measures in the negotiations."

Kim vowed to beef up nuclear capabilities at the ruling Workers' Party's rare congress last week, and that pledge highlighted the need to reopen negotiations for a peace deal, Moon said.

Moon said the issue of joint South Korea-U.S. military drills, which Pyongyang has long condemned as a rehearsal for war, can be discussed by reviving an inter-Korean military panel.

Moon also called for a diplomatic solution with Japan to prevent the planned sale of Japanese corporate assets to compensate victims of forced labour, saying it would be "undesirable" for bilateral relations.

The two countries are at odds over legacies from Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule, and some former labourers have secured a court order to seize domestic properties of Japanese firms.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan)

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