Will Pyongyang return to negotiating table?

19-Jun-2021 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 5:02 AM Print This Post

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un emphasized stable control of the situation on the Korean Peninsula, Friday, and said the isolated state should be ready for “both dialogue and confrontation,” in an apparent conciliatory gesture toward South Korea and the United States.

It is rare for the bellicose North to mention dialogue, and considering the remarks were made a day before US special representative for North Korea Sung Kim’s visit to Seoul, attention is now on whether stalled denuclearisation talks will get a makeover.

According to the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, during a ruling Workers’ Party of Korea meeting Thursday, Kim said the country has “made a detailed analysis of the policy tendency of the newly emerged US administration toward North Korea and clarified appropriate strategic and tactical counteraction and the direction of activities to be maintained in relations with the US in the days ahead.”

This is the first time that Kim has commented on the US’s North Korea policy after President Joe Biden took office in January. The Biden administration finished reviewing its policy toward the North and said it would pursue a “calibrated, practical approach” on the way to the complete denuclearisation of the peninsula.

During a five-day visit to Seoul, Sung Kim is scheduled to have bilateral and trilateral meetings with his South Korean counterpart, Noh Kyu-duk, and Japan’s North Korea point man, Takehiro Funakoshi.

The fact that Kim’s message was not antagonistic toward the US has prompted Pyongyang watchers to believe it signals North Korea’s willingness to hold talks.

Lim Eul-chul, a professor at the Institute for Far Eastern Studies at Kyungnam University, said that Kim sending a message to Washington was a sign of change as Pyongyang has not responded to US calls for talks. He also said that Kim’s emphasis on full preparation for confrontation may be designed to keep his people on a heightened state of alert.

“Though North Korea is hinting at the possibility of talks with the US, it is also preparing for confrontation, as the US maintains its hostile policy against Pyongyang and the situation hasn’t changed enough to resume conversations,” Lim said.

While Kim’s speech showed conciliatory gestures compared to past remarks, some experts believe that North Korea’s stance toward the US appears unchanged.

Park Won-gon, a professor of North Korean studies at Ewha Womans University, said Kim’s remarks basically repeated the North’s diplomatic position announced earlier.

“The North’s stance toward the US is similar to what it said in the Eighth Congress of the Workers’ Party of Korea in January. Kim said he would respond to US policy with a principle of ‘to power with power and goodwill with goodwill’ and it remains the same in Thursday’s remarks in a larger frame. North Korea won’t come out to talk unless the US withdraws its hostile policy,” Park told The Korea Times.

“The US has rolled out its North Korea policy review and it was mentioned in the South Korea-US summit in May as well. It is time for North Korea to define its position in response. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the diplomatic ball was in North Korea’s court and Kim has now passed the ball back to the US by reconfirming the North’s stance, which is an extension of what he said in January.”

South Korea’s unification ministry said it would keep an eye on the North’s plenary meeting.

“The government emphasizes once again that dialogue and cooperation is the best way to stably control the situation and establish peace on the Korean Peninsula,” Cha Deok-cheol, deputy spokesman at the ministry, said during a regular press briefing, Friday.



Category: Korea

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