North Korea looking to restore lines of communication with Seoul

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North Korea leader Kim Jong Un is looking to restore stalled communication lines with Seoul to promote peace, state media said.

But Mr Kim condemned offers of dialogue from the US as “cunning ways” to hide its hostility against Pyongyang.

His statement is an apparent effort to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as he wants South Korea to help him win relief from crippling US-led economic sanctions and other concessions.

Pyongyang this month has offered conditional talks with Seoul alongside its first missile firings in six months and stepped up criticism of the United States.

People in South Korea watch a TV news report about a North Korean missile launch
People in South Korea watch a TV news report about a North Korean missile launch (Lee Jin-man/AP)

During a speech at his country’s parliament on Wednesday, Mr Kim said the restoration of cross-border hotlines – which have been largely dormant for more than a year – would realise the Korean people’s wishes for a peace between the two Koreas, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Mr Kim still accused South Korea of being “bent on begging external support and cooperation while clamouring for international cooperation in servitude to the US”, rather than committing to resolving the matters independently between the Koreas.

Mr Kim echoed his sister Kim Yo Jong’s calls for Seoul to abandon its “double-dealing attitude” and “hostile viewpoint” over the North’s missile tests and other developments.

Some experts say North Korea is pressuring South Korea to tone down its criticism of its ballistic missile tests, which are banned by UN Security Council resolutions, as part of its bid to receive international recognition as a nuclear power.

It said the “stable operation” of the channels is expected because their restoration was directly instructed by Kim Jong Un.

On the United States, Mr Kim dismissed repeated US offers to resume talks without preconditions, calling them an attempt to hide America’s “hostile policy” and “military threats” that he said remain unchanged.

The Biden administration “is touting ‘diplomatic engagement’ and ‘dialogue without preconditions’ but it is no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts and an extension of the hostile policy pursued by the successive US administrations,” he said.

He added: “The US remains utterly unchanged in posing military threats and pursuing hostile policy toward (North Korea) but employs more cunning ways and methods in doing so.”

People in South Korea watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un
People in South Korea watch a TV screen showing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un (Ahn Young-joon/AP)

US officials have repeatedly expressed hope to sit down for talks with North Korea “anywhere and at any time”, but have maintained they will continue sanctions until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearisation.

The diplomacy has been stalled for more than two years due to disagreements over easing of sanctions in return for limited denuclearisation steps.

China, North Korea’s last major ally, said on Thursday that it hoped the hotlines’ restoration would help improve ties between the two Koreas.

But it also urged the US to roll back some of the sanctions targeting the North’s civilian economy.

“The US should avoid repeating empty slogans, but rather show its sincerity by presenting an appealing plan,” foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

US president Joe Biden
US president Joe Biden said his administration would seek ‘serious and sustained diplomacy’ to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula (Evan Vucci/AP)

US president Joe Biden told the UN General Assembly last week that his administration would seek “serious and sustained diplomacy” to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s outreach to Seoul came after South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who seeks progress in his appeasement policy on North Korea before he leaves office next May, proposed a symbolic peace declaration during his UN speech last week.

“Kim Jong Un will likely continue to use South Korea to move the Biden administration in its favour,” Kwak Gil Sup, head of One Korea Centre, a website specialising in North Korean affairs, wrote on Facebook.

“He’ll make more outright attempts to wedge South Korea and the US apart. It’s a highly sophisticated strategy to make the best use of the impatience of the (Moon) government preoccupied with producing progress in its peace process on the Korean Peninsula in its final months in office.”

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