SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — The powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said Saturday that her country will take steps to repair ties with South Korea, and may even discuss another summit between their leaders, if the South drops what she described as hostility and double standards.
The comments by Kim Yo Jong followed a similar statement she issued Friday that the North was willing to resume talks with the South if certain conditions were met.
Analysts say North Korea is using South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s desire for inter-Korean engagement to pressure Seoul to persuade the Biden administration to ease crippling U.S.-led sanctions over the North’s nuclear weapons program or suspend combined U.S.-South Korean military exercises.
In her latest statement, Kim, a senior official who handles inter-Korean affairs, criticized Seoul for describing the North’s recent weapons tests as provocations when it’s trying to expand its own military capabilities. North Korea has often accused the South of hypocrisy for introducing modern weapons while calling for talks on easing tensions on the divided peninsula.
Kim urged the South to abandon its “unfair double-dealing standards, hostile policies (toward North Korea), various prejudices and hostile comments destroying trust,” if it wants the North to respond to its calls to improve ties.
If the Koreas are able to build mutual trust, Kim said North Korea could possibly respond to the South’s calls for a declaration to formally end the Korean War, restore an inter-Korean liaison office the North destroyed in 2020, and discuss another summit.
“There is no need for the (North) and the (South) to waste time faulting each other and engaging in a war of words at present,” said Kim, adding that the future of bilateral relations depends on the choices the South makes.
“I won’t predict here what will come — a balmy breeze or a storm,” she said.
Ties between the rivals flourished in 2018, when Moon helped set up Kim Jong Un’s first summit with former President Donald Trump. The Korean leaders met three times that year and vowed to resume inter-Korean economic cooperation when possible, expressing optimism that the sanctions would end and allow such projects.
But North Korea later cut off ties with South Korea following the collapse of the second summit between Kim and Trump in 2019, when the Americans rejected North Korea’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for dismantling an aging nuclear facility. That would have amounted to only a partial surrender of the North’s nuclear capabilities.
Kim Yo Jong’s statements came in response to Moon’s speech at the U.N. General assembly this week, where he called for a declaration between the leaders of the Koreas, the United States and China to end the 1950-53 Korean War, which stopped with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Kim and North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song issued separate statements on Friday rebuffing Moon’s proposal, saying the North has no interest in such a declaration while the United States maintains its “hostile” policies. But Kim struck a softer note, saying North Korea was willing to hold “constructive” talks if the South stops provoking it.