Anticipation for inter-Korean talks, U.S.-North Korea dialogue builds

By Jennie Oh  |  Feb. 18, 2018 at 5:51 AM
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SEOUL, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- Inter-Korean relations will improve on the condition that North Korea halts its nuclear and missile provocations and shows intentions of denuclearizing, according to Choo Mi-ae, Chairwoman of South Korea's ruling Democratic Party on Sunday.

At the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Choo called for the need to tackle Pyongyang's nuclear program through a long-term approach and peaceful options such as dialogue and exchanges, Hankook Ilbo reported.

She said the South hopes to build on inter-Korean relations beyond the Pyeongchang Olympics, and work on subsequent stages such as economic cooperation.

Choo also raised the need to implement sanctions as a means of bringing Pyongyang back to the negotiating table, saying a military option would be Seoul's "last resort."

Addressing concerns that South Korea's improving ties with the North could undermine international sanctions and joint efforts to pressure Pyongyang, Choo said South Korea's stance on the North is strictly in line with the international community's position on imposing sanctions and pressure on the North.

She said conditions to improve cross-border ties would include the North ceasing to launch provocations and showing its will to dismantle its nuclear program.

Her remarks came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters on Saturday that it may be too early to discuss whether an inter-Korean summit will happen in the near future.

After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's sister Kim Yo-jong, gave him an invitation to Pyongyang last week, Moon had said the "right conditions" need to be created ahead of a summit.

Reiterating this stance, he also stressed the need for dialogue between the United States and North Korea, aimed at the North's denuclearization.

In an interview with CBS set to air on Sunday, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he is "listening" for signs that the North is ready to engage in talks.

"My job as chef diplomat is to ensure that the North Koreans know, we keep our channels open," he told CBS.

Tillerson, however, stressed no incentives are being offered to induce Pyongyang to enter dialogue.

"We are not using a carrot to convince them to talk, we are using large sticks -- and that is what they need to understand," he said. "This pressure campaign is having its bite on North Korea."

However, North Korean media has said Pyongyang is "not thirsty" for talks with Washington.

The North's daily Rodong Sinmun wrote in an op-ed Saturday that there had been speculation on whether the North and the U.S. would engage in contact or talks during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

However, the paper said Pyongyang has not considered holding talks and it is prepared to counter any moves from Washington such as sanctions, military actions or schemes against the regime.

Still, a number of South Korean experts believe the North may be readying for talks and that it is simply biding its time.

"North Korea will try raise its leverage to the maximum by stating it will not be pushed around in talks," Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University told Yonhap on Sunday.

"The fact that Pyongyang didn't unveil a new strategic weapon during its military parade on Feb. 8, is a signal to the U.S. [regarding dialogue]," he said.

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