North Korea says hope is alive for peace, summit with South

·3 min read
FILE PHOTO: A North Korean flag flies on a mast at the Permanent Mission of North Korea in Geneva

By Heekyong Yang and Cynthia Kim

SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korea is willing to consider another summit with South Korea if mutual respect between the neighbours can be assured, state news agency KCNA said on Saturday, citing Kim Yo Jong, the sister of the North's leader Kim Jong Un.

South Korea welcomed the prospect on Sunday, with the Unification Ministry saying it expected to swiftly engage in talks with Pyongyang, while urging the need to restore a hotline link between the two.

Kim's comment came after the North urged the United States and South Korea last week to abandon what it called their hostile policy and double standards towards it, if formal talks are to be held on ending the 1950-53 Korean War.

North Korea's pursuit of nuclear weapons has complicated the question of a formal end to the war, which halted with an armistice, rather than a peace treaty, leaving U.S.-led U.N. forces technically still at war with the North.

"I think that only when impartiality and the attitude of respecting each other are maintained, can there be smooth understanding between the north and the south," said Kim Yo Jong, who is a powerful confidante of her brother.

Constructive discussions offer a chance for solutions on issues such as "the re-establishment of the north-south joint liaison office and the north-south summit, to say nothing of the timely declaration of the significant termination of the war", Kim said.

Speaking on Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly, South Korean President Moon Jae-in had repeated a call for a formal end to the war, but later said time was running out for such progress before his term ends in May.

North Korea has sought an end to the war for decades, but the United States has been reluctant to agree, unless it gives up nuclear weapons.

In Saturday's remarks, Kim said she noted with interest the intense discussion in the South over the renewed prospect of a formal declaration.

"I felt that the atmosphere of the South Korean public desiring to recover the inter-Korean relations from a deadlock and achieve peaceful stability as soon as possible is irresistibly strong," she said. "We, too, have the same desire."

On Sunday, responding to the remarks, Seoul's unification ministry said in a statement, "For these discussions, the inter-Korean communication line must first be restored swiftly, as smooth and stable communication is important."

The hotline, maintained by South Korea's military to handle relations with Pyongyang, has not operated since August, as North Korea stopped answering calls.

Talks with the United States have been stalled since 2019, when expectations had grown for a declaration on ending the war, even if not an actual treaty, ahead of a historic summit of former U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jung Un in Singapore.

But that possibility, and the momentum the leaders generated over three meetings, came to nothing.

In his own U.N. speech, U.S. President Joe Biden said he wanted "sustained diplomacy" https://www.reuters.com/world/un-biden-will-try-move-past-afghanistan-with-climate-china-focus-2021-09-21 to resolve the crisis over North Korea's nuclear and missile programmes.

North Korea has rejected U.S. overtures on dialogue and the head of the U.N. atomic watchdog said this week its nuclear programme was going "full steam ahead".

(Reporting by Heekyong Yang and Cynthia Kim; Editing by Jack Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

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