Location South Korea South Korea

US holds key to inter-Korean peace

By Kim Bo-eun

The prospect of dialogue between the U.S. and North Korea is looming larger following two days of inter-Korean talks in Pyongyang. In a meeting with envoys from South Korea led by National Security Office head Chung Eui-yong, Monday, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un expressed a willingness to talk with Washington about denuclearization.

Experts on Korea said South Korea’s role in mediating between North Korea and the U.S. is limited, and talks on denuclearization can only take place between the two countries.

“For the Trump administration, South Korean diplomacy (for talks with North Korea) has little impact,” said Andrei Lankov, a professor of Korean studies at Kookmin University.

“North Korea is not going to talk about nuclear issues with South Korea.”

“South Korea cannot negotiate on behalf of the U.S. on nuclear and missile issues,” John Delury, a professor at Yonsei University’s Graduate School of International Studies, said.

“The inter-Korean process should move toward negotiations with the U.S. and ultimately multilateral talks,” he said.

Lankov said both Pyongyang and Washington are open to talks, so dialogue will likely take place soon.

The U.S. has maintained it will have dialogue with North Korea as long as it shows commitment to denuclearization.

Lankov said Washington-Pyongyang talks will likely take place before or after joint military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. scheduled to take place in early April. Kim Jong-un said in talks with South Korean delegates that the regime accepted the drills will take place.

While talks may occur, the professor said progress on denuclearization will take time.

Two of the South Korean envoys who made a two-day visit to Pyongyang will visit Washington later this week to brief officials there on the details of their trip.

The envoys’ visit to the North was made after the North Korean leader’s sister Kim Yo-jong delivered a message from her brother inviting South Korean President Moon Jae-in for talks in Pyongyang, while she visited the South for the Olympics.

It was Kim Jong-un’s first meeting with South Korean officials since he assumed power following the December 2011 death of his father, Kim Jong-il.

Inter-Korean relations have developed in the New Year, with North Korea’s participation in the PyeongChang Games in the South, after it made multiple provocations including a nuclear test and intercontinental ballistic missile launches last year.


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