Published: Sun, January 14, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Seoul must heed United States concerns while talking to North Korea

Seoul must heed United States concerns while talking to North Korea

Moon, clearly aware of that possibility, said Tuesday that any improvement of North-South relations must be linked to "resolving North Korea's nuclear program". The North's reply came two days after it restored the telephone line at Panmunjeom on Wednesday.

"This decrease in arrivals is extremely concerning because it's not that life became that much better in North Korea, it is because the Chinese authorities, while signing up for increased sanctions on the North Korean economy, also stepped up their crackdowns on North Korean refugees", said Sokeel Park of Liberty in North Korea, which helps defectors reach the South. Dialogue is more needed now than ever before to defuse the hair-trigger tension, and all the more so because the opening of the world's premier winter sports event is just about a month away.

Amid global concern over Pyongyang's ballistic missile and nuclear programmes, the talks will be the first staged since December 2015.

The U.S. described the move to put off its annual drill with South Korea as an effort to "de-conflict" the military exercise and the Winter Games, allowing Moon to "focus on ensuring the security" of the Olympics, due to start February 9. It should keep in mind why it is holding talks with the North.

When asked by a reporter if that meant Trump doesn't need any prerequisites to meeting with North Korea, Trump said that wasn't what he meant.

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North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un opened the way for talks with South Korea in his New Year's Day speech, calling for reduced tensions on the Korean peninsula. Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement Thursday that "in the spirit of the Olympic Games, the United States and the Republic of Korea (ROK) will de-conflict the start of our annual U.S. -ROK joint exercises until after the conclusion of the Winter Olympics".

Mr Cho, 61, played a key role in preparing for a summit in October 2007 between late South Korean president Roh Moo Hyun and then North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

Last year, the vast majority of defectors were women (83 per cent), thus maintaining the trend, as women make up 71 per cent of all North Korean defectors to the South.

Seoul responded with an offer of talks between the two, and earlier this week the hotline between them was restored after being suspended for nearly two years. The last meeting between North and South Korean officials of ministerial rank or higher occurred in August 2015, when National Security Advisor Kim Kwan-jin and Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo from South Korea and Korean People's Army General Political Bureau Chief Hwang Pyong-so and Korean Workers' Party Central Committee Secretary Kim Yang-gon from North Korea met after South Korean soldiers were maimed by a landmine that blew up near the DMZ. Sources reported that the Ministry of Unification and Ministry of Foreign Affairs are now carefully examining not only UNSC resolutions but also independent sanctions by the South Korea and USA governments for various possible scenarios that could arise in connection with support for North Korea's Olympic participation.

The developments have raised hopes that progress can be made toward broader negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons program, though significant barriers remain. Impetuous remarks will give the wrong signals to North Korea as well as the US.

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