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N Korean says diplomatic overtures signal its strength, not sanctions

21 March 2018 10:51

 

In its first comment on a fast paced rapprochement on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang has dismissed speculation that tough sanctions brought North Korea to the negotiating table with the US and the South, stressing that the North is now driving a “peace offensive.”

In a commentary published late Tuesday, North Korea’s state-run KNCA news agency highlighted the “dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation” with Seoul and “a sign of change” with Washington, without referring to its summits with the two sides, which are being planned.

It said Pyongyang’s overtures came from a position of strength, not from weakness.

“The dialog peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires,” the commentary said, using the acronym for the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The piece, however, rejected suggestions that the harsh sanctions imposed on Pyongyang over its military program had forced the North to contemplate joining negotiations, slamming hawks in Washington and Seoul for alleging that the North had an ulterior motive.

“Such rubbish as ‘result of sanctions and pressure’…spread by hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” it said, urging “prudence” for all parties involved.

Tensions with the North over its nuclear and missile tests have sharply declined since the beginning of 2018, when Pyongyang signaled a big breakthrough by announcing a decision to send a delegation to the Winter Olympics held in the South last month.

Officials from each country have, ever since, exchanged visits to address the potential of inter-Korean talks.

The North has also told a delegation of South Korean diplomats that its leader Kim Jong-un would attend a summit with US President Donald Trump. Trump, himself, has said he would be meeting Kim by the end of May.

Those developments have been followed by a pledge by Sweden to support potential Washington-Pyongyang talks, and a meeting between North Korean and American representatives in Finland.

The combined overtures have provided a change against the backdrop of a decades-long war of words between the North on one side, and the United States and the South on the other over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile activities. The exchange of belligerent rhetoric between the two sides had seen a sharp rise under Trump.

The recent de-escalation has prompted Western and South Korean officials to suggest that the American and international sanctions against the North have brought it to its knees.

On Wednesday, Seoul proposed holding high-level talks with the North next week to discuss details of an inter-Korean summit scheduled for late April.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a three-way summit with North Korea and the United States is possible, and that talks should aim for an end to the nuclear and peace issues on the Korean Peninsula.

Moon also said he has “clear goal and vision” for the establishment of a lasting peace to replace the ceasefire signed at the end of the 1950-53 Korean war.

He said he also wants the normalization of North Korea-US relations, the development of inter-Korean ties, and economic cooperation involving Pyongyang and Washington.

The South’s leader also urged the US to add its guarantee in order for peace to come about, Moon said.

“Whether the two Koreas live together or separately, we have to make it in a way that they prosper together and in peace, without interfering or causing damage to each other,” Moon said.

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