North’s nuclear freeze offer clears way for talks says South Korea’s Moon

Peace moves at ‘critical juncture’ after summit agreed

A photograph  released by  North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency  shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (right) shaking hands with South Korean envoy  Chung Eui-yong ,  during their meeting in Pyongyang.

A photograph released by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency shows North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un (right) shaking hands with South Korean envoy Chung Eui-yong , during their meeting in Pyongyang.

 

South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in said he was confident that an offer by the North to freeze its nuclear programme would satisfy US conditions for preliminary talks about denuclearisation of the peninsula.

“Right now, there is nothing that has been settled. We only believe that at least the United States’ conditions for selective talks, preliminary talks, have been met based on our consultations so far with the US,” Mr Moon said at a meeting with leaders from five political parties at the president’s office, the Blue House.

North and South Korea have been divided by a heavily fortified demilitarised zone (DMZ) since the Korean War (1950-53) ended with an armistice but no peace treaty.

Mr Moon came to power in May 2017, and since then North Korea has launched 10 ballistic missiles, while also staging its most powerful nuclear test so far last September.

Mr Moon said he believed that efforts to bring peace and denuclearise the peninsula were at a “very critical juncture”. The two Koreas have greed to hold a third inter-Korean summit in late April at the village of Panmunjom just south of the inter-Korean border.

If it goes ahead, Kim Jong-un will be the first North Korean leader to step foot on South Korean soil since the end of war.

‘Starting line’

“I believe it is still too early to be optimistic because we are only at the starting line,” Mr Moon said, cited by the Yonhap news agency.

President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un have engaged in a bitter verbal battle over the North’s project to develop a missile that can carry a nuclear warhead to mainland US, and Washington insists it will only have dialogue with the North under “the right conditions”.

Mr Trump responded positively to the news that the two Koreas would meet for a summit next month.

“Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea. For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned. The world is watching and waiting. May be false hope, but the US is ready to go hard in either direction,” he tweeted.

Kick-start dialogue

The developments came after South Korea’s national security chief Chung Eui-yong returned from leading a delegation to the north to try and kick-start dialogue.

Although there are signs of closeness, there is still a long way to go.

North Korea’s state newspaper Rodong Sinmun said its nuclear weapons programme was justified and could not be disputed.

“We came into possession of nuclear weapons in a righteous manner with a goal of defending the country’s top interest against US nuclear threats,” it said.

And the US introduced a fresh round of sanctions on the North for violating international law by using a banned chemical weapon to assassinate Kim Jong-nam, the eldest son of former North Korean leader Kim Jong-il and brother of Kim Jong-un.