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View more articles by Dagyum Ji
Dagyum Ji is a senior NK News correspondent based in Seoul. She previously worked for Reuters TV.
North Korean state-run outlets on Tuesday dismissed South Korea’s 2019 plans for the development of inter-Korean relations as “empty talk,” in rhetoric that comes days before a high-stakes U.S.-ROK summit in Washington and amid a broader freeze in DPRK-ROK exchanges.
The commentaries, carried by the externally-focused Uriminzokkiri and Arirang-Meari outlets, come in response to the South Korean Ministry Unification’s (MOU) annual plan for the year, reported to the National Assembly in late March.
That proposal saw the MOU set ambitious goals in seven areas, including the “resolution of the North Korean nuclear issue and the establishment of peace system,” as well as inter-Korean dialogue, exchange, and cooperation.
Plans to push ahead with the “New Economic Map Initiative of the Korean Peninsula” initiative, including measures to prepare for inter-Korean economic cooperation, were also included.
Tuesday saw Uriminzokkiri writer Mun Ik Ryong, however, condemn the unification ministry’s recent proposal as “not worth a rush” and “nothing but an empty shell.”
“When scrutinizing the content, it is overly obvious that [the plan] is just empty talk without any feasibility,” the article said.
Inter-Korean relations, the Uriminzokkiri reiterated, have been slow to progress because of the “indecisive behavior of the authorities which are daunted by the pressure of the U.S. and the South Korean conservatives.”
“Instead of playing a leading role in the implementation of inter-Korean declarations, the Ministry of Unification has no achievements to speak of as it is walking on eggshells,” it said.
Other external-oriented online outlets also repeated Uriminzokkiri‘s criticism of the MOU’s implementation plan, urging Seoul to take action rather than pursue “useless empty talk.”
“Taking one action is priceless compared to a hundred words,” the Arirang-Meari said on Tuesday. “Step by step toward action to thoroughly implementing historic North-South Korean declarations has more significance and meaning than an unctuous plan of 100 or 1000 pages.”
In the same vein, DPRK Today on Monday accused the unification ministry of being “swayed by pressure” from the U.S. and conservative parties — echoing editorials published last week.
The upsurge in DPRK state media criticism of the South comes amid an impasse in inter-Korean dialogue following the no-deal second DPRK-U.S. summit in Hanoi.
Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) on Tuesday confirmed that the North Korean side has not responded to South Korean calls for general-level military talks for over three weeks.
Plans for joint remains recovery in the demilitarized zone (DMZ), too, have been postponed.
The commentaries also come just days before a high-stakes U.S.-ROK summit in Washington on Thursday, in which Presidents Donald Trump and Moon Jae-in are expected to have an “in-depth discussion” on pending issues including the resumption of DPRK-U.S. nuclear negotiations.
Following a meeting with U.S. Deputy National Security Advisor Charles Kupperman in Washington last Friday, second deputy chief of the presidential National Security Office (NSO) Kim Hyun-chong said the discussion on agenda items for the upcoming summit “went very well.”
Kim, however, said there had been no consultation between the ROK and the U.S. over prospects for reopening of the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC) and Mount Kumgang tourism resort — which Moon is widely expected to lobby for in Washington this week.
South Korean chief nuclear envoy Lee Do-hoon last Thursday, for one, stressed Seoul’s view that sanctions were not likely to make Pyongyang abandon its nuclear program.
“Sanctions are a means to deter North Korea from making bad decisions, but sanctions themselves cannot fundamentally resolve our problem,” Lee — who serves as Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Peace and Security Affairs at the foreign ministry — told a conference in Seoul.
North Korean had continuously developed its nuclear arsenal through “decades of sanctions and pressure,” the ROK chief nuclear envoy said.
“To believe that stronger sanctions and more pressure will make North Korea suddenly give up its entire nuclear program is an illusion.”
Lee’s comment come in stark contrast with comments by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s late last month, in which the top U.S. diplomat stressed that strong sanctions could expedite the denuclearization progress.
“The North Korean people are not doing great under the sanctions regime there,” Pompeo said in a March interview. “That, of course, speeds the timeline along and, of course, it’s in America’s best interest to resolve this as quickly as we can.”
Edited by Oliver Hotham
Featured Image: Joint Inter-Korean Summit Press Corps