North Korea open to closer ties with Seoul, formal end to Korean war is ‘admirable idea’: Kim Yo-jong
- Kim Jong-un’s powerful sister says a formal end to the 1950-53 conflict is on the cards if South Korea, US drop ‘double-dealing attitudes’ over the North’s ‘right to self defence’
- Analysts say the announcements are a sign Pyongyang wants Seoul to persuade Washington to soften its stance on denuclearisation and sanctions
The South Korean president on Thursday reiterated the call he made at the UN General Assembly earlier this week for a formal end to the 1950-53 conflict. Fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the two Koreas technically in a state of war.
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“We have willingness to keep our close contacts with the South again, and have constructive discussions with it about the restoration and development of bilateral relations if it is careful about its future language and not hostile toward us,” Kim Yo-jong said, according to the Pyongyang-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).
“[In the past, South Korea] often provoked us and made far-fetched assertions to find fault with anything done by us out of double-dealing standards,” she said. “The declaration of the termination of the war is an interesting and admirable idea that in it itself is meant to put a physical end to the unstable state of ceasefire.”
She urged the South and the United States to drop “double-dealing attitudes, illogical prejudice, bad habits, and the hostile stance” of justifying their own military acts while faulting the North’s exercising “of the right to self-defence”.
“Only when such a precondition is met would it be possible to sit face to face and declare the significant termination of war and discuss the issue of North-South relations and the future of the Korean peninsula,” she said.
The arms race between the neighbours was ratcheted up last week when North Korea test-fired ballistic missiles off its east coast, while the South announced a spate of breakthroughs in its development of new weapons, including submarine-launched missiles.
Speaking hours before Kim Yo-jong’s comments on Friday, North Korean vice foreign minister Ri Thae-song said Moon’s call to declare a formal end to the war was premature, and argued there was no guarantee it would lead to the withdrawal of Washington’s “hostile policy” toward Pyongyang, according to the KCNA.
He added that this would not alter the legal status of the 28,500 American troops stationed in the South, or undermine Seoul’s alliance with the US, and expressed hope that next year’s Winter Olympics in Beijing would serve as another chance to reach out to the North.
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There has been no significant dialogue with North Korea since the collapse of the second summit between Kim Jong-un and then US president Donald Trump in Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2019.
Koh Yu-hwan, president of the Korea Institute for National Unification, said the North wanted the US to resume talks over normalising ties before denuclearisation was discussed – though Washington insists Pyongyang should abandon its nuclear programme first.
“Washington has to turn the order of policy steps upside down in order to meet the North’s demand,” he said.
The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday said the hermit state’s nuclear development was going “full steam ahead” after North Korea restarted its plutonium-producing reactor at the Yongbyon complex in the north of the country, in a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies said the implication of the statements from Pyongyang on Friday was that it wanted Seoul to persuade Washington to soften its stance.
“The North is looking to find momentum for diplomacy before Moon is out of office,” he said.