South Korea’s Ministry of Unification (MOU) said on Thursday that Seoul is hoping recent North Korean restraint from “further provocations” will lead to better conditions for inter-Korean dialogue.
Pyongyang has not conducted a missile test since the passage of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2371 on August 5.
“North Korea refrains from further provocations since the UN Security Council [imposed] sanctions, and [the South Korean government] hopes that this will tip the balance in favor of dialogue,” an official told assembled media at a closed door briefing not open to foreign media.
The unification ministry’s statement echoed those made by U.S. President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday, in which they welcomed North Korea’s “restraint” – an opinion also shared by a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson the following day.
“I think it is part of efforts to alleviate tensions in northeast Asia as well as on the Korean peninsula,” the MOU official said. “We are keeping close tabs with a positive view.”
The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) on Thursday said the statements from Trump and Tillerson had “clarified” that the position of administration was to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue through “peaceful and diplomatic solutions.”
“The statements seem to assess the North’s restraint from provocations in recent times… and to clarify the U.S.’s willingness to negotiate with the North,” Cho June-hyuck, a spokesman at MOFA, told media during a regular briefing.
“However, it is necessary to observe the North’s behavior more and pay close attention to the situation to judge whether the current restraint from provocation can be evaluated to be meaningful restraint.”
Tillerson said on Tuesday he wanted to “acknowledge” that Pyongyang had not conducted missile tests since the adoption of the most recent UNSC resolution, praising Pyongyang for recent “restraint.”
On the same day, Trump said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “is starting to respect us” at a campaign-style rally in Phoenix, Arizona.
“Maybe, probably not, something positive can come about,” he said.
But North Korean outlet Uriminzokkiri on Thursday reiterated its position that the South Korean government is “responsible” for the poor state of inter-Korean relations, which it claimed has “been steadily getting worse.”
“The South Korean government’s behavior of suggesting the abandonment of nuclear weapons as the aim of the North – South dialogue is too presumptuous,” Uriminzokkiri said.
The outlet, which is aimed at an international audience, argued that South Korean government officials had “clamored” that the conversation between the two Koreas should involve talks on “substantive denuclearization,” which Pyongyang refuses to discuss with the South.
“Proposing the nuclear issue, which can’t be discussed at the North – South dialogue, as a precondition and goal of the dialogue is the same as saying that [the South] will not hold a dialogue,” it said.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said on Wednesday that Seoul “needs to take the initiative to solve” the issue of the Korean peninsula with a “sense of ownership,” in a policy meeting with officials from MOFA and the MOU.
“The South – North relations are in a stalemate due to North Korean provocations now, but the Ministry of Unification must prepare substantially and calmly in this kind of situation,” Moon said at the meeting.
“Spring must come although there is frigid winter, so please be prepared steadily to sow seeds well when spring comes.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Korea.net
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