* South Korea wants to reopen communications with North
* Envoy from South has left for U.S. to discuss crisis
* No word from U.S. yet on who is to pay for THAAD
By Christine Kim
SEOUL, May 17 South Korea said on Wednesday it
wanted to reopen communications with North Korea as new
President Moon Jae-in seeks a two-track policy involving
sanctions and dialogue with its reclusive neighbour to rein in
its nuclear and missile programmes.
North Korea has made no secret of the fact that it is
working to develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking
the U.S. mainland and has ignored calls to rein in its nuclear
and missile programmes, even from China, its lone major ally.
Its latest ballistic missile launch, in defiance of UN
Security Council resolutions, was on Sunday which it said was a
test of its capability to carry a "large-size heavy nuclear
warhead", drawing Security Council condemnation.
"Our most basic stance is that communication lines between
South and North Korea should open," Lee Duk-haeng, a spokesman
for the South's Unification Ministry, told reporters. "The
Unification Ministry has considered options on this internally
but nothing has been decided yet."
Communications were severed by the North last year, Lee
said, in the wake of new sanctions following North Korea's last
nuclear test and Pyongyang's decision to shut down a joint
industrial zone operated inside the North.
North Korea and the rich, democratic South are technically
still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce,
not a peace treaty. The North defends its weapons programmes as
necessary to counter U.S. hostility.
Moon won an election last week campaigning on a more
moderate approach to the North and said after taking office that
he wants to pursue dialogue as well as pressure to stop the
North's weapons programmes.
Moon's envoy to the United States, South Korean media mogul
Hong Seok-hyun, left for Washington early on Wednesday. Hong
said he would discuss North Korea with high-ranking officials in
Hong said South Korea had not yet received official word
from the United States on whether Seoul should pay for an
anti-missile U.S. radar system that has been deployed outside
U.S. President Donald Trump has said he wants South Korea to
pay for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD)
anti-missile system which detected Sunday's launch.
China has strongly opposed THAAD, saying it can spy into its
territory, and South Korean companies have been hit in China by
a nationalist backlash over the deployment.
The United States said on Tuesday it believed it could
persuade China to impose new U.N. sanctions on North Korea and
warned that Washington would also target and "call out"
countries supporting Pyongyang.
Speaking to reporters ahead of a closed-door U.N. Security
Council meeting, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki
Haley also made clear that Washington would only talk to North
Korea once it halted its nuclear programme.
Trump has called for an immediate halt to North Korea's
missile and nuclear tests and U.S. Disarmament Ambassador Robert
Wood said on Tuesday that China's leverage was key and Beijing
could do more.
Trump warned this month that a "major, major conflict" with
North Korea was possible, and in a show of force, sent the Carl
Vinson aircraft carrier strike group to Korean waters to conduct
drills with South Korea and Japan.
(Additional reporting by Michelle; Nichols at the UNITED
NATIONS; Editing by Nick Macfie)