Moon in talks plea to US and DPRK

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said the US and the DPRK should both give ground so they can sit down for talks to try to resolve a nuclear standoff.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said yesterday that the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea should both give ground so they can sit down for talks to try to resolve a nuclear standoff, a day after Pyongyang expressed willingness for dialog.

South Korea has engaged in a flurry of talks with DPRK officials since January, hoping to improve relations with South Korea’s just concluded Winter Olympics as a catalyst for rapprochement.

The DPRK, or North Korea, is developing nuclear-tipped missiles capable of reaching the US mainland, and US President Donald Trump and DPRK leader Kim Jong Un exchanged increasingly bellicose taunts before a sudden puncturing of tensions coinciding with the Games, with the DPRK sending athletes and delegates.

“Recently, North Korea has shown it is open to actively engaging the United States in talks and the United States is talking about the importance of dialog,” Moon said during a meeting in Seoul with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong.

“There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearize. It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly,” he said, according to a statement from his office.

South Korea’s Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha said yesterday that DPRK must heed the call of the international community to abandon its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and allow peace to take root on the peninsula.

Addressing the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Kang also called for the resumption of visits between separated families in DPRK and South Korea, as a “humanitarian and human rights issue,” especially as many are in their 80s.

In August, Trump threatened to go beyond sanctions by bringing “fire and fury like the world has never seen,” although his administration has repeatedly said it prefers a diplomatic solution.

DPRK has vowed never to give up its nuclear program, which it pursues in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions, calling it “powerful treasured sword for defending peace” against US aggression.

The US, which stations 28,500 troops in South Korea, says any talks with DPRK must lead to an end to its nuclear program. Washington on Friday announced its largest package of sanctions yet.

DPRK condemned the move, accusing the US of trying to undermine the improvement in inter-Korean relations.

A high-level DPRK delegation has been visiting Seoul and meeting South Korean officials, including Moon, after attending the Olympics’ closing ceremony in Pyeongchang on Sunday.

The delegation told Moon during a meeting in Pyeongchang that Pyongyang was open to talks with Washington. The delegation attended a dinner hosted by Unification Minister Cho Myong-gyon, where participants agreed to keep working to boost inter-Korean ties, the ministry said.

Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun said he hoped constructive talks between DPRK and the US could begin when “an appropriate opportunity” arises.

The DPRK delegation, led by former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol, met Chung Eui-yong, security adviser for the presidential Blue House, and other South Korean government officials for lunch yesterday.

“Both sides agreed to work together for permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula, sustainable relations between North and South Korea and balanced cooperation with the international society,” the South’s presidential office said in a statement.

Kim Yong Chol and his delegation will leave today, just as DPRK and South Korean officials gather on the DPRK’s side of the Panmunjom truce village to discuss Pyongyang’s attendance at the Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics.

DPRK and South Korea are technically still at war because their 1950-53 conflict ended in a truce, not a peace treaty. The DPRK regards regular military drills between South Korea and its main ally, the US, as preparations for war.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in central Seoul yesterday to criticize Moon and his administration for hosting the North Koreans. The South Korean government said it had approved the delegation as it pursues peace on the peninsula. 

A total of 299 North Koreans who were in South Korea for the Winter Games, returned home yesterday.