SEOUL: 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 its 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 United States has been reluctant to agree unless North Korea gave up its nuclear weapons.

Moon Jae-in, 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 that he was confident that 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.

Published in Dawn, September 25th, 2021

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