The two nations haven’t held high-level government talks since December 2015, but North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un apparently made the overture to the South because he wants his country to participate in the Winter Olympics, scheduled for February in the South Korean town of Pyeongchang.
BREAKING: South Korea: North Korea announces it will open cross-border communications in another sign of easing animosity between the rivals.
— The Associated Press (@AP) January 3, 2018
According to the New York Times, Kim made the overture to the South on Monday, and the offer has been tentatively — but warmly — received by the South. It was noted that South Korea has been talking to Washington regarding the offer according to Cho Myoung-gyon, the South’s expert on relations with the North.
[T]he Korean governments [could] hold their meeting next Tuesday in Panmunjom, a village straddling the border north of Seoul, the South Korean capital.
“We hope the two sides sit down for frank talks,” Mr. Cho, the unification minister, said at a news conference.
If the North responds positively, it will set in motion the first official dialogue between the Koreas in two years. South Korean officials hope the talks will lead to a thaw after years of high tensions between the countries and threats of war over the North’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
President Trump credited sanctions and “other” pressures, presumably from the U.S., for the apparent thaw. He tweeted that the news could be good or bad, and that time was needed to assess what the motives of the North might be.
Sanctions and “other” pressures are beginning to have a big impact on North Korea. Soldiers are dangerously fleeing to South Korea. Rocket man now wants to talk to South Korea for first time. Perhaps that is good news, perhaps not – we will see!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders noted that the U.S. position on North Korea has not changed following the Communist nation’s offer of an olive branch.
“Our policy on North Korea hasn’t changed at all,” said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. “The United States is committed and will still continue to put maximum pressure on North Korea to change and make sure that it denuclearizes the peninsula. Our goals are the same and we share that with South Korea, but our policy and our process has not changed.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Niki Haley has indicated that the North is still expected to ban nuclear weapons and will not be taken seriously — offers of high-level talks notwithstanding — if they fail to meet that expectation.
“We won’t take any of the talks seriously if they don’t do something to ban all nuclear weapons in North Korea,” she said. “We consider this to be a very reckless regime, we don’t think we need a Band-Aid; we don’t think we need to smile and take a picture. We think we need to have them stop nuclear weapons and they need to stop it now.”
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert dismissed the idea that the offer would in any way disrupt or weaken the relationship between South Korea and the U.S.
President Trump has been criticized the past few days for his controversial tweets aimed at Kim, including a statement he made earlier this week that his nuclear button is “bigger” than Kim’s and that it actually “works”.