North Korea proposes talks if South Korea lifts ‘hostility’

Published September 24, 2021
In this March 2, 2019, file photo, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam. — AP/File
In this March 2, 2019, file photo, Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un attends a wreath-laying ceremony at Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, Vietnam. — AP/File

The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said on Friday her country is willing to resume talks with South Korea if it doesn’t provoke the North with hostile policies and double standards.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement was a response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s renewed calls for a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to bring back peace.

Her proposal also came days after North Korea performed its first missile tests in six months and South Korea performed its first test of a submarine-launched missile.

“If [South] Korea distances itself from the past when it provoked us and criticised us at every step with its double standards and restores sincerity in its words and actions and abandons its hostility, we would then be willing to resume close communication and engage in constructive discussions about restoring and developing relations,” Kim Yo Jong said.

To achieve the end-of-the war declaration, she said: “We must ensure mutual respect toward one another and abandon prejudiced views, harshly hostile policies and unfair double standards toward the other side first.”

Her comments were a contrast to a blunt statement by a senior North Korean diplomat earlier on Friday that the end-of-war declaration could be used as a “smokescreen covering up the US hostile policy” against the North.

Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song said American weapons and troops deployed in South Korea and its vicinity and regular US military drills in the region “all point to the US hostile policy toward [North Korea] getting vicious day by day”.

North Korea has also long described US-led economic sanctions as proof of US hostility against the North.

In a response to Ri’s statement, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it’ll continue its efforts to adopt the end-of-the war declaration and strengthen cooperation with related countries.

Cha Duck Chul, a deputy ministry spokesman, said declaring the war’s end would be “a very meaningful step” as it could be a starting point for peace negotiations and denuclearisation on the peninsula.

The Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the peninsula in a technical state of war.

North Korea has steadily wanted to sign a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the war and for subsequent improved relations. Some experts say the peace treaty could allow North Korea to demand the United States to withdraw its 28,500 troops in South Korea and ease sanctions.

Both Koreas had called for an end-of-war declaration to be made and a peace treaty to be signed during the period of diplomacy with the United States that began in 2018, and there was speculation former president Donald Trump might announce the war’s end in early 2019 to convince North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to commit to denuclearisation.

No such announcement was made as the diplomacy faded to a stalemate over easing the sanctions in return for North Korea denuclearising.

In late 2019, North Korea said the nuclear crisis won’t be resolved if the United States sought to persuade it to return to the talks with a proposal on the war-end declaration without withdrawing its hostile policy.

In recent months, Kim has warned that North Korea would bolster its nuclear arsenal and introduce more sophisticated weapons systems unless the United States drops its hostile policy.

Last week, North Korea conducted its first cruise and ballistic missile tests since March, demonstrating its ability to launch attacks on South Korea and Japan, two key US allies where a total of 80,000 American soldiers are stationed.

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