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North Korea nuclear crisis

North Korea breaks silence as South’s leader Moon Jae-in floats three-way summit with US

North Korea’s recent moves to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula are evidence of its confidence and national strength, not a sign of weakness, according to its state-run media

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 12:44pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2018, 8:24pm

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a three-way summit with North Korea and the United States was possible as Pyongyang broke its silence on the recent diplomatic thaw.

Moon is planning a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un next month after a flurry of diplomatic activity in Asia, Europe and the United States.

US President Donald Trump has also said he would meet Kim by the end of May.

“A North Korea-US summit would be a historic event in itself following an inter-Korean summit,” Moon said at the presidential Blue House in Seoul after a preparatory meeting for the inter-Korean summit.

“Depending on the location, it could be even more dramatic. And depending on progress, it may lead to a three-way summit between the South, North and the United States,” he said.

Seoul officials are considering the border truce village of Panmunjom, where Moon and Kim are set for a one-day meeting, as the venue for talks between not only Kim and Moon but also a possible three-way meeting.

The rush of recent diplomatic contacts began in the lead-up to the Winter Olympics in South Korea last month and helped ease tensions on the Korean peninsula caused by North Korea’s pursuit of its nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of United Nations Security Council sanctions.

Moon said the series of summits should aim for a “complete end” to the nuclear and peace issues on the Korean peninsula.

He said he has a “clear goal and vision”, which is for the establishment of a lasting peace to replace the ceasefire signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.

It also includes the normalisation of North Korea-US relations, the development of inter-Korean ties, and economic cooperation involving Pyongyang and Washington, he said.

North Korea has not reported any public activities by Kim since March 6, when it said he held talks with South Korean envoys.

However a commentary from the state-run KCNA news agency late Tuesday rejected suggestions that sanctions had forced it to the negotiating table.

The KCNA commentary did not directly mention the summits but noted the “dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation” with the South and “a sign of change” with the US.

It said Pyongyang’s overtures came from a position of strength, not from weakness, even as it confronts intense international pressure as well as biting economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

“The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires,” it said, using the North’s official name.

It also slammed hawks in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo for questioning the sincerity and motivation behind the North’s willingness to step back from the brink.

“Such rubbish as ‘result of sanctions and pressure’ … spread by hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” it said, urging “prudence” for all parties involved.

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“It is really an expression of small-mindedness for the riff-raffs to spoil the atmosphere and say this or that even before the parties concerned are given a chance to study the inner thoughts of the other side and are seated at a negotiating table,” it said in typically colourful language.

Since floating the idea for a summit with the US, “the North has been carefully watching how the situation is developing, including the US-South Korea joint military drills, before making it public to the people”, Professor Kim Yong-hyun at Dongguk University said.

The South and the US announced Tuesday a plan to resume annual joint military exercises on April 1, with its main drill shortened by a month – in an apparent conciliatory gesture over an event that infuriates the North.

A Blue House official also said South Korea was in discussion with China and Japan for a three-way summit in Tokyo in early May. The three countries have not held such a meeting since November 2015, with relations soured by historical and territorial tension.

Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Associated Press