Monday, October 18, 2021

North Korea says open to talks if South drops double standards

North Korea has for decades been seeking an end to the war but the US has been reluctant to agree unless the former gives up its nuclear weapons.

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South Korea’s call for a formal end to the Korean War is premature but the door for dialogue is open if it scraps its double standards and hostile policy, a senior North Korean official said in comments published by state media on Friday.

The 1950-53 Korean War ended with an armistice not a peace treaty, leaving US-led UN forces technically still at war with North Korea. The question of formally ending the war has become caught up in a US-led effort to get North Korea to give up it nuclear weapons.

South Korea President Moon Jae-in repeated a call for a formal end to the war in an address to the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday.

Senior North Korean official Kim Yo Jong, the powerful sister of leader Kim Jong Un, said Moon’s proposal was “interesting and admirable” but conditions were not right because of South Korea’s persistent double standards, prejudice and hostility.

“Under such a situation it does not make any sense to declare the end of the war with all the things, which may become a seed of a war between parties that have been at odds for more than half a century, left intact,” Kim said in a statement carried by the North’s official KCNA news agency.

South Korea should change its attitude and foster the conditions for a meaningful discussion on ways to end the conflict and improve ties, she said.

“What needs to be dropped is the double-dealing attitudes, illogical prejudice, bad habits and hostile stand of justifying their own acts while faulting our just exercise of the right to self-defence,” Kim said.

“Only when such a precondition is met, would it be possible to sit face to face and declare the significant termination of war and discuss the issue of the north-south relations and the future of the Korean peninsula.”

North Korea has for decades been seeking an end to the war but the US has been reluctant to agree unless North Korea gave up its nuclear weapons.

Talks stalled

Expectations were raised that a declaration on ending the war, even if not an actual treaty, would be made during a historic summit between then US president Donald Trump and North Korea’s Kim Jung Un in Singapore in 2018.

But that possibility, and the momentum on talks that those two leaders generated over three meetings, came to nothing. Talks have been stalled since 2019.

Moon, a liberal who has made improving ties with North Korea a priority, sees ending the war as a way to nudge forward the effort to press North Korea to give up its nuclear and ballistic missile arsenals in return for US sanctions relief.

But his call looks unlikely to break the deadlock.

He said on Friday he was confident North Korea would eventually see it was in its interests to reopen dialogue with the US but he was not certain if that would come before his term ends next year.

“It seems that North Korea is still weighing options while keeping the door open for talks, since it is only raising tension at a low level, just enough for the US to not break off all contact,” he told reporters on his way home from New York.

US President Joe Biden said in his own UN address that he wanted “sustained diplomacy” to resolve the crisis surrounding North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea has rejected US overtures to engage in dialogue and the head of the UN atomic watchdog said this week that its nuclear programme was going “full steam ahead”.

North Korea’s Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song said on KCNA earlier that the US should withdraw its “double-standards and hostile policy” to break the deadlock.

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