Fri, Aug 11, 2017 - Page 6 News List

North Korea uninterested in negotiations with Seoul

AP, SEOUL

With the change of government in South Korea, Seoul is making peace offerings to its archrivals, but the North is not biting.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the best way to solve the North Korean nuclear crisis is engagement of the sort that two past liberal leaders used to win historic summits with Pyongyang.

The problem, as clearly demonstrated during the past several chaotic days, is that North Korea does not want to talk.

Instead, it has been testing missiles at an unprecedented pace and threatening to launch some of those toward Guam.

Pyongyang might be looking to eventually use the existence of its nuclear weapons to negotiate a peace treaty with the US to officially end the 1950 to 1953 Korean War and remove US troops from the South.

Until, and unless, that happens, Seoul probably will have little luck building bridges.

The Koreas previously held formal talks in December 2015.

Since then, North Korea has conducted a torrent of missile tests and two nuclear tests, boosting its efforts to make nuclear weapons small enough to fit on long-range missiles.

Moon, who took office in May, made his most ambitious plea for engagement two days after North Korea test-launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) last month.

In a July 6 speech in Berlin, Moon vowed to build on the legacies of former South Korean presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun and their so-called “Sunshine Policy.”

Seoul’s economic inducements resulted in two historic summit meetings and temporary rapprochement between the Koreas in the 2000s.

Moon said the Koreas should start off with “easy” subjects.

He proposed talks for reducing animosities across their heavily armed border and a resumption of meetings between aging relatives separated by war.

He invited the North to next year’s Winter Olympics, which South Korea is hosting, and proposed ambitious longer-term projects, such as reconnecting an inter-Korean railway and building a gas pipeline connecting the Koreas with Russia.

Moon said he was not offering unconditional cooperation.

He condemned the ICBM launch and said the North could guarantee its security only through “complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization.”

He said he was willing to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but only under the right conditions.

The North Korean response was blunt.

It ridiculed his comments, ignored his proposals and conducted its second ICBM test on July 28.

Reopening dialogue with Pyongyang is crucial for Moon, who says the South should take the lead when it comes to solving the North Korean nuclear problem.

However, analysts say the ICBM tests show that Pyongyang is focused on Washington and is uninterested in what Seoul brings to the table.

Pyongyang needs more tests before it can produce a fully functional ICBM. It wants an end to annual military drills between the US and South Korea, which it calls invasion rehearsals, and the removal of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in the South.

It will also be looking to breathe new life into an economy hammered by years of heavy international sanctions and to find more markets for its cheap products and labor.

These clearly are of greater significance to Pyongyang than anything Seoul can provide.

Moon has harshly criticized the policies of previous Seoul administrations, which he says did nothing to stop Pyongyang’s weapons advancements and only diminished the South’s voice in dealing with its rival.

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