North Korea Reiterates They’re Open to Talks with U.S.

Ben Cho, Feb. 26, 2018, 8:08 a.m.

A senior North Korean official said Monday that the reclusive state is willing to hold talks with the United States, noting the door for dialogue between the two countries remains open, according to an official from Seoul's presidential office Cheong Wa Dae. The remarks from Kim Yong-chol, the North's point man on South Korea, came in a meeting with Chung Eui-yong, chief of South Korea's National Security Council and the top security advisor to President Moon Jae-in.

"Kim said the door remains open for dialogue with the United States. He said the North has also repeatedly expressed such a stance," a ranking Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters, while speaking on condition of anonymity. Kim's remarks came one day after he told the South Korean president in a meeting that the North has enough willingness to hold bilateral talks with the United States.

He, however, attached no conditions for the talks, according to the presidential official. The U.S. seemed to remain cautious, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders saying Washington will first see if Kim's remarks represented the North's first step toward denuclearization. The North Korean official arrived here Sunday as part of an eight-member delegation to the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games.

The possibility of U.S.-North Korea dialogue surfaced after the two Koreas resumed inter-Korean dialogue last month to discuss the North's participation in the Olympic Games that ended Sunday. Moon has repeatedly stressed the need to continue fostering the recent rapprochement between the two Koreas, so they may soon lead to a resumption of international negotiations on ending the North's nuclear ambition.

He insists such efforts will first require direct talks between the U.S. and North Korea. "The United States needs to lower its bar for dialogue and North too must show its willingness to denuclearize. It is important so that the U.S. and North Korea may sit down face to face," Moon said while meeting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong at his office in Seoul earlier in the day.

Kim underscored the importance of support and cooperation from the United States, as well as China, Japan and Russia, to get the denuclearization dialogue moving forward again, according to the Cheong Wa Dae official.

The four countries are part of six-nation talks aimed at ridding North Korea of nuclear weapons that also involved the two Koreas. The talks have been stalled since 2008.

During his meeting with the North Korean official, Chung said the Moon Jae-in government has made efforts to improve ties with state neighbors and such efforts have contributed to paving the way for peace on the Korean Peninsula. "I appreciate such efforts by President Moon," Kim said in response.

When questioned if the North has any intention to discuss denuclearization during talks with the U.S., Kim said dismantling is the endpoint of denuclearization but there can be many ways of starting the process.

He, however, didn't specify what the "many ways" are, according to the Cheong Wa Dae official. Kim and other North Korean delegates are set to return home Tuesday.

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