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South Korea: End-of-war declaration can’t be bargaining chip for denuclearization

South Korean President Moon Jae-In, right, with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, cross the inter-Korean border into the North at the village of Panmunjeom in the Demilitarized Zone on April 27, 2018. (Young Ho/Korea Summit Press Pool/Sipa USA/TNS)

For North Korea an end-of-war declaration “can never be a bargaining chip” to get the country to denuclearize, and it will not hope for such a declaration if the US does not want it, according to the country’s state media on Tuesday. Experts interpreted the statement as Pyongyang’s call on Washington to stop using such a declaration as a bargaining chip for its complete and verifiable denuclearization, and instead take corresponding steps to the “goodwill measures” the communist nation has taken so far.

“Now that the DPRK and the US are aspiring after the establishment of new relations true to the spirit of the June 12 DPRK-US joint statement, it is quite right to put an end to the belligerent relations between them,” the Korean Central News Agency said in an English commentary, using the country’s official name Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

“But, if the US doesn’t want the end of war, the DPRK will also not particularly hope for it,” it added.

The KCNA also criticized experts for “orchestrating a farce of putting a price” on the declaration.

The commentary comes on the heels of North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong-ho’s speech, saying that continued sanctions were deepening its mistrust in the US and there was no way his country would relinquish its nuclear weapons unilaterally under such circumstances, at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last week. The minister highlighted a slew of goodwill measures his country had taken so far, including the decision to halt nuclear and missile tests and the dismantlement of its Punggye-ri nuclear test site.

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Progress in denuclearization talks stalled after the landmark summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in June, with the two sides apparently failing to reach a consensus on the end-of-war declaration issue and other concessions involving denuclearization.

North Korea has called on the US to actively engage in talks on declaring an end to the Korean War, which was halted in 1953 with an armistice, not a peace treaty. But the US has reiterated that it will not make such concessions unless the North takes substantive steps toward denuclearization, while requesting the North first provide a complete inventory of its weapons programs.

“North Korea is saying the US is asking them to take too many ‘substantive steps’ in return for the end-of-war declaration,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul.

“The North said it would dismantle its Yongbyon nuclear facility at the recent Pyongyang summit between the leaders of two Koreas, and is calling for the US to take clear steps regarding the end-of-war declaration before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s fourth trip to Pyongyang.”

Koh added that Pyongyang is reaffirming its position that it is unwilling to denuclearize without the US’ full concession to declare the end of war before entering yet another round of negotiations with Washington during Pompeo’s next Pyongyang visit.

Analysts also raised the idea that North Korea wants sanctions alleviation from the US in exchange for its dismantlement of the Yongbyon nuclear facility, pointing to the Pyongyang summit declaration that stated Pyongyang is “willing to dismantle” it if the US takes corresponding measures “in the spirit of the June 12 declaration between the US and North Korea.”

During his seven-day New York trip, Ri met with Pompeo to discuss the issue of North Korea’s denuclearization and a possible second Trump-Kim summit. Pompeo accepted the North Korean leader’s invitation to visit Pyongyang this month to continue talks on the discussed issues.

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Ri left New York on Monday and is expected to return to Pyongyang via Beijing. He did not respond to a group of reporters asking about the next steps in the North Korea-US negotiations on denuclearization.

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© 2018 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany)

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