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Kim Yo Jong, sister of Kim Jong Un, says North Korea open to dialogue with South

South Korean President Moon Jae-in listens to Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a concert staged by the North's Samjiyon Orchestra at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, on February 11, 2018. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE
South Korean President Moon Jae-in listens to Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, at a concert staged by the North's Samjiyon Orchestra at the National Theater of Korea in Seoul, South Korea, on February 11, 2018. File Photo by Yonhap/EPA-EFE

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, is calling the prospect of an end-of-war declaration on the peninsula "an interesting and an admirable idea," state-run media reported on Friday -- and signaled that Pyongyang is willing to restart dialogue if Seoul drops its "hostile" policies and rhetoric.

Kim's remarks came in response to a call from South Korean President Moon Jae-in for an official end to the Korean War during his address this week at the U.N. General Assembly, a proposal he repeated Wednesday during a ceremony in Hawaii for the transfer of wartime remains.

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The two Koreas technically are still at war, as the fighting that began in 1950 ended after three years with an armistice and not a peace treaty.

"We have willingness to keep our close contacts with the South again and have constructive discussion with it about the restoration and development of the bilateral relations if it is careful about its future language and not hostile toward us," Kim Yo Jong said in a statement carried by Korea Central News Agency.

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Kim, who has emerged as a powerful adviser and key strategist in the North Korean regime, added that Pyongyang would only consider declaring an end to the war if Seoul ends its "inveterate hostile policy" and drops "unequal double standards" toward the North concerning weapons tests.

Otherwise, she said, a declaration "would hold no water and would change nothing."

Her comments came several hours after another North Korean official, Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song, was far more dismissive of Moon's overtures, calling them "premature" and a potential "smokescreen covering up the U.S. hostile policy," according to KCNA.

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The contrasting remarks were intended for different audiences, analysts said, with Ri's meant mainly for the United States and Kim's aimed at Seoul.

Go Myong-Hyun, a research fellow at Seoul-based Asan Institute for Policy Studies, said that Pyongyang is using a "divide-and-conquer tactic" between South Korea and the United States in an effort to push for concessions, such as the easing of international sanctions, before any dialogue.

"Kim is incentivizing South Korea to keep going with the idea of signing the end-of-war declaration and continuing with inter-Korean dialogue initiatives," Go said. "She is leveraging the opportunity to show that South Korea is drifting away from Washington's objective of maintaining strong sanctions against North Korea."

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Last week, there was a flurry of weapons tests by both North and South Korea on the peninsula as both showed off new missile systems. North Korea has also restarted activity at its Yongbyon nuclear plant, a move that the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency called "deeply troubling."

Inter-Korean relations have been at a low ebb since North Korea destroyed a joint liaison office in the border town of Kaesong more than a year ago and cut off all communications with the South.

Pyongyang briefly restarted a pair of cross-border hotlines in July, but stopped answering them last month in protest over joint U.S.-South Korea military drills, which the North frequently says are rehearsals for an invasion.

During his keynote address at the General Assembly, Moon said that an official end to the Korean War would bring "irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace."

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