North Korea agrees to talk to South after U.S.-South Korea postpone drills

A North Korean flag flutters on the top of their guard post inside North Korean territory in this picture taken near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju
A North Korean flag flutters on the top of their guard post inside North Korean territory in this picture taken near the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas in Paju, South Korea. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

January 6, 2018

By Christine Kim and David Brunnstrom

SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea agreed on Friday to hold official talks with South Korea next week, the first in more than two years, hours after Washington and Seoul delayed a military exercise amid a standoff over Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told U.S. media it was too early to tell if the inter-Korea meeting could open the way for future talks involving the United States, but he stressed that if such talks came about they would have to be aimed at North Korean denuclearization.

South Korea said North Korea had sent its consent for the talks to be held next Tuesday at the border truce village of Panmunjom. The last time the two Koreas engaged in official talks was in December 2015.

The two sides are expected to discuss the Winter Olympics, to be held in South Korea next month, and inter-Korean relations, South Korean Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters.

North Korea asked for further negotiations about the meeting to be carried out via documented exchanges, Baik said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un opened the way for talks with South Korea in a New Year’s Day speech in which he called for reduced tensions and flagged the North’s possible participation in the Winter Olympics.

But Kim remained steadfast on the issue of nuclear weapons, saying the North would mass-produce nuclear missiles for operational deployment and warned he would launch a nuclear strike if his country was threatened.

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called the proposed inter-Korean talks a “good thing,” and he and his South Korean counterpart Moon Jae-in announced that annual large-scale military drills would now take place after the Olympics.

The North sees the drills as preparations for invasion and justification for its weapons programs that it conducts in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. South Korea and the United States are technically still at war with North Korea after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Trump, who hurled fresh insults at the North Korean leader this week, took credit for any dialogue that takes place.

“Does anybody really believe that talks and dialogue would be going on between North and South Korea right now if I wasn’t firm, strong and willing to commit our total ‘might’ against the North,” Trump tweeted.

TILLERSON WARNING

Speaking to CNN, Tillerson made clear that Washington was also open to talks with North Korea, but warned that while it aimed to resolve the crisis diplomatically, “those diplomatic efforts are backed by a strong military option if necessary.”

Tillerson said future talks involving the United States could allow North Korea to “chart a way for themselves to a more secure future, a more prosperous future.” He added: “They do know how to reach us if and when they are ready to engage with us as well.”

Tillerson said how such talks might begin had yet to be determined, but North Korea would have to signal it understood that they would be aimed at “final, full denuclearization.”

He told the Associated Press it remained to be seen whether the North Koreans would want to talk about more than the Olympics next week.

The meeting could be a “vehicle through which they would like to tell us that they would like to have some discussions,” the AP quoted Tillerson as saying.

“It could be meaningful, it could be important. It could be a meeting about the Olympics and nothing else happens.”

North Korea says its weapons are necessary to counter U.S. aggression, and it regularly threatens to destroy the United States and its two key Asia allies, Japan and South Korea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang welcomed North and South Korea “taking positive steps to improve ties,” and said the postponement of the exercises was “without doubt a good thing.”

China’s Commerce Ministry said it would limit exports of crude oil, refined oil products, steel and other metals to North Korea, in line with tough new sanctions imposed by the United Nations.

Japanese Defence Minister Itsunori Onodera sounded a note of caution about the proposed talks.

“I think what is important is to maintain a firm defense posture,” he told reporters. “North Korea goes through phases of apparent dialogue and provocation, but either way, North Korea is continuing its nuclear and missile development. We have no intention of weakening our warning and surveillance.”

Earlier this week, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said Washington had heard reports that Pyongyang might be preparing to fire another missile.

South Korea’s Defence Ministry has said it had yet to see any evidence of an imminent missile launch.

Analysts with the website 38 North, which tracks North Korea, reported Pyongyang may be preparing to test a rocket engine at a facility in Sohae, North Pyongan province, where all of the North’s satellite launches have taken place since 2012.

Commercial satellite imagery from Dec. 25 showed a rail-mounted environment shelter had been moved away from a test stand, indicating that an engine test may be in the near future, the website said, rather than a new rocket launch suspected in recent media reports.

(Reporting by Christine Kim in Seoul and David Brunnstrom in Washington; Additional reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Josh Smith in Seoul, Olivier Fabre in Tokyo, Philip Wen in Beijing, Denis Pinchuk in Moscow and David Alexander in Washington; Editing by James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)

  • Tom Horn

    If I were a US athlete, I wouldn’t go to Korea. Korea is just chomping at the bit to kidnap them all and turn them in the brain damaged slime like they did what’s his face. I would expect North Korea to attack and possibly nuke the olympics

    • Tom Horn

      Warmbier

  • “The” Bobguy

    Got to hand it to Un. Use it as a way to give your military some time to scavenge the fields for food.

  • Derek Dominico

    Another LIE by the fat Rodman idol! Just drop the MOAB on his palace !

  • Red

    It’s not over until the little fat man sings.

  • Roy Beane

    Yeah, N.Korea wants to get those unconditional surrender of S.Korea talks going right away. Kim is watering at the mouth and quivering with excitement at the prospect of barging down the peninsula into the south and occupying the whole country ASAP.

  • jlsharks1

    Talk should start only with agreed disarmament (Denuclearize North Korea) on the table

  • TRexsuporter

    Don’t believe it! As a military vet that spent over 3 1/2 years in ROK watching these buttholes, this is a farce. Just delays to keep building up like Iran did till its to late and they achieve their goals.

  • Jeffrey Martin

    Why is it ok if NK does not suspend their tests (in this case nuclear) but SK and the US must suspend theirs (in this case conventional)? Any test suspensions should apply to both sides.

    NK negotiations are a fool’s errand.

    If we suspend our drills with SK today and NK resumes their nuclear testing, we should resume ours in Pyongyang. We have tried to communicate to China that we will not live with a NK nuclear gun to our heads. But, to no avail. We should make it clear to China that any nuclear first strike emanating from NK will be considered as coming from them requiring a full retaliatory response from the US.

  • Butthep

    Fat kid is scared of US and SK attacking. Trust this kid is stupid.

  • scott

    I’m sure the Olympics have nothing to do with his motives. The sanctions must be working or it’s a stall tactic. Trump isn’t stupid. He’s probably letting fat ass play his cards so he can get the feel of what fat ass is up to. We’ll see.

  • Stonecrusher

    An inch at a time.

  • Scotty

    Any agreement that may come of this will be instantly broken by NK. Why bother.

  • Chas Dan

    This is only the beginning. First they will demand we stop the exercises. Then they will demand that we pull out of South Korea so China can have it all. As long as we have Leftist traitors and cowards in America, there is the danger of capitulation to the enemy. Trump is staying strong despite pressure from all the weak appeasers.

    • larryjcr

      More likely chubby Kim was a list of demands that involve some kind of payments he can use to keep his cronies happy, and himself in power.

      • Chas Dan

        We have plenty of idiots in this country who would be willing to pay him off every year to keep him from firing at us.

  • Carolann313

    Nothing but a NK stall tactic.

  • Nathan Pinnhead

    Only Trump wants Nuclear war. He is starting a war with NK.

    • MJABRTDK

      You’re nuts Trump is the first president we had in a long time who won’t let NK pull their typical BS. The only one who will start a war is Rocket Man and if he does it won’t end will for NK.

      • Nathan Pinnhead

        Or any of us. Trump is insane.

    • Chas Dan

      The military exercises by the US and South Korea have been going on long before Trump was President.

      North Korea made the first threat for a nuclear attack. Their ambition is to stop the exercises, which are a necessary drill for combat readiness. If they are successful with that, they will probably demand that the US withdraw from South Korea completely.

      People like you think the US should do whatever North Korea wants to avoid having Kim Ding Dong attack us. You should change your name to Neville Chamberlain.

    • Scotty

      I said it before and I’ll say it again; your name is perfect for you.

      • McGuire

        Well said. I was just thinking the same. LOL

    • Maulerman

      U must be a troll put forward by the democrats/liberals or should I say pacifist Millenials that will allow this country to be destroyed. Why should they care they have been given everything without any sacrifice. The brainwashed generation.

      • Jeffrey Martin

        Some of them have sacrificed in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are all young. Some will grow old.

        • famouswolf

          If that is true, then we are truly finished as a nation and as a civilization. Finis. Kaput.

      • Nathan Pinnhead

        Back off Son, you must be a millennial.

      • Nathan Pinnhead

        is that an insult, is it Brother?

    • famouswolf

      Excellent user name. Fits you to a tee.

      • Nathan Pinnhead

        How’s that koolaid taste?

      • Nathan Pinnhead

        bro, is that an insult?

  • Tom Horn

    Devils do not become angels that fast. Anybody else see the disingenuousness here? Fst boy is still an evil murderous enslaving bastard who needs to be done away with, along with ALL his nukes.

  • Tom Horn

    North Korea……Deflect and delay, deflect and delay, while they sharpen their swords.

    • MJABRTDK

      You got that right and China & Russia are giving them the swords.

      • Chas Dan

        Well said.

    • Chas Dan

      True!