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North Korea nuclear crisis

North Korea will denuclearise if security guaranteed, says South

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 March, 2018, 7:54pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 12:10am

Throughout years of tension and tough talk over North Korea’s nuclear programme, Pyongyang has always insisted its “treasured sword” is not up for negotiation. But now it says it is willing to abandon nuclear weapons if the security of its government is guaranteed, Seoul’s envoy said on Tuesday after meeting the North’s leader Kim Jong-un.

“The North made clear its willingness for the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, and made clear that there is no reason to own nuclear [programmes] if military threats towards the North are cleared and the security of its government is guaranteed,” said Chung Eui-yong, national security adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

US President Donald Trump responded to news of the talks in a relatively positive tweet: “Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The World is watching and waiting! May be false hope, but the U.S. is ready to go hard in either direction!”

US intelligence officials were also cautious to accept Pyongyang’s willingness to talk.

The director of the US Defense Intelligence Agency, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, said that he did not share a sense of hopefulness about the report.

“Right now I don’t share your optimism,” Ashley said in response to a question from a senator.

“That’s kind of a ‘show me,’ and so we’ll see how this plays out.”

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats also said that Washington needs know far more before assessing North Korea’s reported willingness.

“Hope springs eternal but we need to learn a lot more relative to these talks,” Coats added.

At a press conference after returning to Seoul, Chung said Kim is willing to discuss denuclearisation in talks with Washington, which could be the crucial concession needed to make the talks happen. He said Pyongyang agreed to suspend nuclear and missile tests for as long as it holds talks with the United States.

“Also, the North promised not to use atomic weapons or conventional weapons towards the South,” Chung told reporters.

Chung said the two Koreas agreed to hold their third ever summit at a tense border village in late April. He also said the leaders will establish a “hotline” communication channel to lower military tensions, and would speak together before the planned summit.

Chung led a 10-member South Korean delegation for a two-day visit to Pyongyang. They returned on Tuesday.

The envoys were taken to the Workers’ party headquarters, the first time South Korean officials have visited the building, according to Seoul’s presidential office. Kim later hosted a dinner, set at a round pink and white table with matching chairs, with his wife. His younger sister and close adviser Kim Yo-jong also attended the meal, which lasted more than four hours.

Kim rarely meets foreign visitors, making his appearance highly significant, and his decision to personally host a dinner for the South Koreans was even more striking.

“He … made an exchange of in-depth views on the issues for easing the acute military tensions on the Korean Peninsula and activating the versatile dialogue, contact, cooperation and exchange,” the North’s official Korean Central News Agency reported, referring to Kim.

“He repeatedly clarified that it is our consistent and principled stand and his firm will to vigorously advance the North-South relations and write a new history of national reunification by the concerted efforts of our nation to be proud of in the world.”

The two-day trip followed a flurry of cooperative steps taken by both Koreas during last month’s Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea. Tensions had run high during the previous year because of a barrage of North Korean weapons tests.

The envoys’ visit had produced “a very important breakthrough”, said Cheong Seong-chang of Sejong Institute think tank, calling the results “an important first step towards stably managing the North’s nuclear and missile threats, preventing war on the Korean peninsula and building political and military trust”.

He cautioned that the definition of “military threats” the North wanted to see removed was “up for interpretation”, but said he believed Washington and Pyongyang “would soon begin serious dialogue”.

Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, The Guardian