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 South Korea Urges US Support for North Korea Nuclear Talks

Voice of America, Brian Padden
South Korean President Moon Jae-in is continuing efforts to broker talks between the U.S. and North Korea to reduce tensions over the North’s nuclear program, despite facing reluctance from Washington and Pyongyang, and increasing concerns at home.On Monday, North Korea expressed a willingness for talks with the United States, but did not clarify whether Pyongyang is prepared to address halting and eventually dismantling its threatening nuclear program. The support for dialogue came from Kim Yong Chol, the controversial head of the visiting North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics closing ceremony. Kim has been accused of orchestrating a North Korean torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in 2010 that killed 46 sailors.

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to the North’s sudden openness to dialogue with skepticism on Monday, saying, ” We’ll see what happens” and that the “right conditions” must first be in place before talks can proceed.

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it is working to address Washington’s concerns.

“Our government will continue to make efforts to persuade North Korea to respond promptly to the U.S., North Korea dialogue, while at the same time closely communicating and consulting with the U.S. on the future direction of North Korea’s nuclear diplomacy,” said Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk.

Conflicting strategies

While North Korea now says it is willing to talk, its defiant rhetoric, and the numerous missile launches and two nuclear tests conducted in the last year, indicate a more threatening posture. Kim Jong Un responded to increasing international sanctions by declaring his country a nuclear weapons state, and set upon developing an operational intercontinental ballistic missile capability to target the U.S. mainland.

The Trump administration responded with a “maximum pressure” campaign, imposing economic sanctions, along with an emphasis on the threat of military action, if necessary, to force the Kim government to give up its nuclear program.

Last week the President issued new unilateral sanctions on companies and vessels linked to North Korean shipping trade to further restrict Pyongyang’s ability to bypass sanctions, by obtaining oil and selling coal, using ship to ship transfers.

Trump’s insistence that conditions first be met before talks can proceed supports his “maximum pressure” approach, but it also seemed to pull back from the position voiced by Vice President Mike Pence after he visited South Korea to lead the U.S. Olympic delegation for the opening ceremony. Pence said the U.S. would be open to exploratory talks without conditions, while maintaining sanctions pressure.

The mixed messages coming out of Washington may suggest that Trump has not been entirely supportive of President Moon’s very assertive diplomatic outreach to engage North Korea during the Olympics.

“I think the United States government was not completely happy with the degree to which the U.S. government was consulted or not consulted before the South Koreans invited in the North Korean officials and athletes into the games,” said Denny Roy, an Asia Pacific security expert with the East-West Center in Honolulu. ……https://www.voanews.com/a/south-korea-urges-us-support-for-north-korea-nuclear-talks/4272234.html

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February 28, 2018 - Posted by | politics international, South Korea

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