Tue, Feb 27, 2018 - Page 1 News List

US should lower threshold for talks with North: Seoul

AFP, SEOUL

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, left, shakes hands with South Korean President Moon Jae-in at the presidential Blue House in Seoul yesterday.

Photo: EPA-EFE / YONHAP

South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday urged the US to “lower the threshold for talks” with North Korea, as his aides held rare talks with a Pyongyang general on ways to defuse tensions.

Moon has sought to use the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics that ended on Sunday to open a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang in the hopes of easing a nuclear standoff that has sparked global security fears.

Pyongyang mounted a charm offensive during the Games, sending athletes, cheerleaders and performers as well as leader Kim Jong-un’s sister to the opening ceremony and Kim Yong-chol, the general in charge of inter-Korea affairs for the ruling Workers’ Party, to Sunday’s closing event.

However, there was no known interaction between the North and the US during the Games and Washington on Friday imposed what US President Donald Trump described as the “heaviest ever” sanctions on Pyongyang’s regime.

“I think the US needs to lower the threshold for talks and the North also needs to show determination for denuclearization,” Moon said in a meeting with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong (劉延東), who attended the closing ceremony.

Moon, in a meeting with Kim Yong-chol on Sunday, also urged the North to open a dialogue with the US as soon as possible — to which Kim responded by saying the North was “very willing” to hold talks.

The White House said it would wait and see whether a new overture by North Korea for talks means it is serious about disarming,

“We will see,” was the response from White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was in South Korea on Sunday as a member of the US delegation attending the Olympics.

Sanders said that US President Donald Trump remains committed to achieving the “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization” of the peninsula and that his “maximum pressure campaign” against North Korea must continue until it abandons its nuclear and missile programs.

Kim Yong-chol also met Moon’s top aides yesterday, including national security adviser Chung Eui-yong, as conservative demonstrators denounced his presence in the South.

During the meeting, Kim Yong-chol reiterated that the “doors are open for dialogue with the US,” according to Moon’s office.

Dozens of activists held a protest near the luxury Seoul hotel where Kim Yong-chol and seven other North Korean delegates were staying, ripping apart the general’s portrait and torching the North’s national flag.

Hundreds of conservative lawmakers and their supporters also held a separate protest in Seoul, waving banners saying “Arrest Kim Yong-chol!” among other slogans.

At a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Kang Kyung-wha said the North must abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and allow peace to take root on the Korean Peninsula.

“It is imperative to ensure the Pyeongchang spirit lives long after so peace can take root on the Korean Peninsula,” Kang said.

“North Korea must heed the call and abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” she said.

She also called for the resumption of visits between separated Korean families. She said such visits were a “humanitarian and human rights issue,” especially are many are in their 80s.

Additional reporting by Reuters and AP

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