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Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Friday criticized the South Korean government’s attempts to mediate and facilitate nuclear negotiations between Pyongyang and Washington, instead calling on Seoul to work towards the “interests of the nation.”
In a policy speech delivered to deputies on the second day of the First Session of the 14th Supreme People’s Assembly held at Pyongyang’s Mansudae Assembly Hall, Kim was on Saturday reported to have accused Seoul of “tarnishing the spirit of independence and the policy of relying on outsiders.”
“The South Korean authorities should not act an officious ‘mediator’ and ‘booster’ that adopt a vacillating stand depending on the trend and engage themselves in an array of visits,” Kim said, in a statement carried by state-run outlets the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and the Rodong Sinmun.
Kim said Seoul should, instead, become a “party advocating the interests of the nation with its own spirit and voice, being part of the nation.”
“It is our consistent stand that in order to give further momentum to the atmosphere of improving the north-south ties, it is prerequisite to foil the moves of hostile forces against reunification and peace at home and abroad,” he said.
North Korea’s external-oriented media outlets repeatedly in March dismissed Seoul’s “presumptuous” plans to mediate DPRK-U.S. nuclear talks, and Kim’s decision to so directly condemn the South Korean government this week is notable.
The criticism follows the South Korean Ministry of Unification’s (MOU) announcement last month of its 2019 Work Plan, in which it said Seoul would seek to facilitate North Korea-U.S. dialogue through stepping-up inter-Korean talks.
Kim’s speech, too, came just a day after South Korea and the U.S. wrapped up a summit in Washington DC — a meeting which Seoul had framed as part of efforts for it to mediate between the U.S. and the DPRK.
In response to Kim’s criticism on Saturday, the South Korean presidential office reiterated its commitment to that goal.
“Our government will do what we can in order to maintain the current momentum for dialogue and help negotiations between the U.S. and North Korea resume at an early date,” a statement read.
Friday’s parliamentary hearing also saw Kim reportedly urge the South to “understand before it becomes too late that it will be hard to expect any progress in the North-South ties and any result of peace and prosperity without settling the ‘anachronistic arrogance and hostile policy of the U.S.fundamentally.’”
U.S. policy, he said, creates “deliberate hurdle in the improvement of ties while coming forward with unilateral gangster-like demands.”
The DPRK leader also accused Washington of “openly forcing the South Korean authorities to ‘control speed’ and moving in every way to subordinate the implementation of the north-south agreement to its policy of sanctions and pressure on the DPRK.”
The two Koreas stand at a crossroads between a return to the past when “ties plunged into a catastrophe, with the danger of a war increasing,” he said.
In a Korean-language version of the article, the DPRK leader said the two Koreas must “urgently come up with active measures” to resolve the issue.
In spite of the hurdles, Kim stressed his “unwavering determination” to transform relations with the South into “durable and lasting reconciliation and cooperation,” urging Seoul to show its ‘“true intent to head for the improvement of the north-south ties and peace and reunification.”
“They have to sympathize with our stand and will and keep pace with them and take a bold decision proving their sincerity in practical acts, not in words,” he said.
While dismissing Seoul’s hopes to play a mediating role, Kim in the same speech on Friday said he would be open to a third summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, but only under the right circumstances.
He also called on Washington to make a “resolute decision” by the end of the year on whether it wants diplomacy with the DPRK to continue.
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured image: Pyeongyang Press Corps