February 26, 2018 / 12:31 PM / a year ago

South Korea urges North to abandon nuclear weapons, allow family visits

South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha is pictured during a bilateral meeting with Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Ben Nelms

GENEVA (Reuters) - North Korea must heed the call by major powers to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and allow peace to take root on the divided peninsula, South Korea’s foreign minister said on Monday.

Kang Kyung-wha, foreign minister of the Republic of Korea, also called for the resumption of visits between separated Korean families in the North and South, as a “humanitarian and human rights issue”, especially as many are in their 80s.

Kang was addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council a day after the Olympic Winter Games closed in her country. South Korean President Moon Jae-in said earlier that the United States and North Korea should both give ground so they can sit down to talks to try to resolve a nuclear standoff, a day after Pyongyang expressed willingness for dialogue.

“It is imperative to ensure that the spirit of Pyeongchang lives long after the Games so that peace can take firm root on the Korean peninsula and the dire human rights situation in the North can be improved,” Kang told the 47-member forum in Geneva.

“North Korea must heed the call of the international community and abandon its nuclear and missile programmes.”

North Korea is under international sanctions for pursuing its prohibited nuclear and ballistic missiles programmes, which Pyongyang has vowed never to give up.

A North Korean diplomat told Reuters that the delegation has asked to reply to Kang’s remarks, but under U.N. rules will only be allowed to do so when the council’s high-level session ends on Wednesday and its general session begins.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Tom Miles/Mark Heinrich

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