South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday urged the United States and North Korea to lower their conditions for negotiations to take place.
“The United States needs to lower its bar for dialogue and the North, too, must show its willingness to denuclearize. It is important so that the U.S. and North Korea may sit down face to face,” said Moon.
Moon met on Sunday with Kim Yong-chol, the North Korean official whose attendance at the Winter Olympic closing ceremony was controversial due to his involvement with the 2010 sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan and the death of 46 sailors. Family members of the Cheonan dead and conservative members of the South Korean parliament unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Kim from crossing the border.
Kim stated during his meeting with President Moon that North Korea wishes to improve relations with the U.S. and has “ample intentions of holding talks.” Kim and Moon reportedly reached an agreement that “inter-Korea talks and North-U.S. relations should improve together.”
Asked whether his government is truly willing to put denuclearization on the table, Kim evasively replied that “dismantling is the endpoint of denuclearization but there can be many ways of starting the process,” as South Korea’s Yonhap News put it.
“The United States, our Olympic host the Republic of Korea, and the international community broadly agree that denuclearization must be the result of any dialogue with North Korea. The maximum pressure campaign must continue until North Korea denuclearizes,” the White House responded on Sunday.
“As President Trump has said, there is a brighter path available for North Korea if it chooses denuclearization,” the White House statement continued. “We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization. In the meantime, the United States and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs are a dead end.”
The Trump administration announced new sanctions against North Korea on Friday intended to crack down on Pyongyang’s efforts to evade the existing sanctions regime. President Trump said at a joint press conference with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that military action remains possible if sanctions are not effective at terminating North Korea’s nuclear missile program.
“I don’t think I’m going to exactly play that card. But we’ll have to see. If the sanctions don’t work we’ll have to go to phase two. Phase two may be a very rough thing. May be very, very unfortunate for the world,” said Trump.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry responded by calling the new sanctions an “act of war.”
“The two Koreas have cooperated together and the Olympics was held successfully. But the US brought the threat of war to the Korean Peninsula with large-scale new sanctions on the DPRK ahead of the Olympics closing ceremony,” the statement from Pyongyang said.