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Kim Yo-jong says the North is willing to resume talks if the South is “careful about its future language”. Photo: AP

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
North Korea
Kim Yo-jong, the powerful sister of North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un, says the North is open to “constructive discussion” to mend fences with South Korea if Seoul drops its “hostile attitude” toward Pyongyang.
Speaking on Friday, she also welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent call to declare an end to the Korean war as an “interesting and admirable idea”, raising hopes that diplomacy might resume in the final months of Moon’s term, which ends in May next year.

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.”

Such a declaration had been discussed on several occasions in the past as an initial step for establishing a peacekeeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula, Kim Yo-jong said.

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”.

South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in has repeated his calls for a formal end to the Korean war. Photo: Reuters

“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.

With few options to rein in North Korea, missile launches won’t stop: analysts

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.

Moon later clarified the declaration would serve as an opener to negotiations on replacing the armistice with a peace treaty for the Korean peninsula, which should proceed alongside diplomatic discussions over the denuclearisation of the North.

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.

Hopes that the election of US President Joe Biden would herald a breakthrough in stalled denuclearisation talks have evaporated as Washington and Pyongyang have dug in their heels over the lifting of US-led sanctions.

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.

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: north is willing to talk, kim’s sister says