North Korea open to talks if South abandons ‘hostile’ stance

The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has said her country is willing to resume talks with South Korea if conditions are met and the South abandons its “hostile” stance, indicating that she wants Seoul to persuade Washington to that relaxes the crippling economic sanctions.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement on Friday came days after North Korea conducted its first missile tests in six months, which some experts say were intended to show that it would continue to increase its arsenal if US-led sanctions were maintained. while nuclear diplomacy remains inactive.

He offered the talks while rejecting South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s call, delivered in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly, for a political declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to bring the peace to the peninsula.

“Smiling a forced smile, reading the declaration of the end of the war and taking photos can be fundamental for someone, but I think they would not hold out and would not change anything, given the existing inequality, the serious contradiction of it and the hostilities. “Kim Yo Jong said in the statement released by state media.

“In such a situation, it makes no sense to declare an end to war with all things, which can become the seed of a war between parties that have disagreed for more than half a century, left intact,” Kim said. said.

He said North Korea is willing to reestablish “constructive” talks with South Korea to discuss how to improve and repair strained ties under certain conditions.

“What must be put aside are double treatment attitudes, illogical prejudices, bad habits and the hostile posture of justifying their own actions while criticizing our fair exercise of the right to self-defense,” he said.

“Only when that precondition is met, will it be possible to sit face to face and declare a significant end to the war and discuss the issue of North-South relations and the future of the Korean Peninsula.”

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it is carefully reviewing Kim Yo Jong’s statement. A statement from the ministry said that South Korea will continue its efforts to restore ties with North Korea.

Al Jazeera’s Rob McBride, reporting from Seoul, said it was a potentially significant gesture by North Korea.

“It is potentially quite important, given that it comes from Kim Yo-Jong, who tends to be one of the most critical and intransigent voices in North Korea’s leadership when it comes to dealing with South Korea and also with the United States,” he said. . said.

“It is certainly a very different picture from what we were seeing just over a week ago when on the same day, in the space of a few hours, the armies of the two Koreas were testing new types of missiles. So at least it seems to be an improvement. “

South Korea says it conducted its first water-launched ballistic missile test on September 15, hours after North Korea fired two missiles.

Nam Sung-wook, a professor at Korea University in South Korea, told The Associated Press news agency that Kim Yo Jong’s comments on Friday were putting indirect pressure on Seoul over the sanctions easing talks.

“It is as if North Korea is saying that it would welcome end-of-war talks if lifting of sanctions can also be discussed,” Nam said.

The worst crisis in history

US-led sanctions have been tightened following North Korea’s provocative series of nuclear and missile tests in 2016-17, and Kim Jong Un has said sanctions, the coronavirus pandemic and natural disasters were causing the “worst ever” crisis in North Korea. .

North Korea and the United States are still technically at war because the Korean War ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. North Korea has always wanted to sign a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the war and improve subsequent relations. Some experts say the peace treaty could allow North Korea to demand that the United States withdraw its 28,500 troops in South Korea and ease sanctions.

Both Koreas had called for an end-of-war declaration and for a peace treaty to be signed during the diplomacy period with the US that began in 2018, and it was speculated that then-President Donald Trump might announce the end of the war in early 2019 to convince Kim Jong Un to commit to denuclearization.

No such announcement was made as diplomacy faded to a standstill after Trump rejected Kim Jong Un’s calls to lift the newer and tougher sanctions in exchange for a limited denuclearization step. Some experts say North Korea will not find a reason to denuclearize after those sanctions are removed.

Kim Yo Jong’s offer for the talks was in stark contrast to a blunt statement by a senior North Korean diplomat issued the previous Friday that the end-of-war declaration could be a “smokescreen” covering up hostile states’ policies. States, usually a reference to sanctions. as well as the US military presence in the south.

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

But North Korea still maintains its moratorium on nuclear and long-range missile tests aimed directly at the American homeland, a sign that it wants to keep alive the chances of future diplomacy with Washington.

“North Korea would think it does not cross a [red line] established by the United States … so it says it can come to talks if conditions are abundant ”for sanctions relief, Seo Yu-Seok of the North Korea-based Institute for Studies told the AP. Seoul

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