Pyongyang has warned third parties against fueling tensions and interfering in the inter-Korean reconciliation process, claiming it is making a “great effort” to reunify the peninsula against the backdrop of US nuclear threat.
“We will courageously smash all of the challenges of the nation’s desire for reunification,” the government statement carried by KCNA reads. “Let all the Koreans rise up in the peacekeeping struggle against war to baffle the reckless nuclear war moves of the US which brings disaster to [the] land, setting dangerous flames!”
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in his New Year address signaled his willingness to mend fences with his southern neighbor ahead of PyeongChang Olympics in February. Pyongyang and Seoul immediately agreed to reopen their military hotline, and have been communicating ever since, in an unprecedented level of diplomacy. While the US and its allies are wary of the North’s ‘true’ intentions, South Korea maintains that future dialogue with its neighbor can lead to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
The North Korean government meanwhile voiced its support for the effort “to bring great changes to the north-south relations.” In fact, North Koreans want “a new history of independent reunification” to begin as soon as possible.
“Let us quickly improve the north-south relations and pave a wide avenue to the rosy future of the nation which will be reunified, strong and prosperous!” the communist government said in a statement addressed to “all Koreans at home and abroad.”
To further improve relations the North says it is willing “to defuse the acute military tension” to “create a peaceful climate” on the Korean peninsula. The hermit state appears keen to promote “contact, travel, and exchange” between neighbors to “actively create a climate for national reconciliation and reunification.”
“Let’s reenergize inter-political parties, inter-strata and inter-sector contacts and dialogues and activate cooperation and exchange at home and abroad to stir up the climate of reunification,” the statement reads.
Washington has been very opportunistic in its approach to the Korean talks. Initially, Trump claimed credit for making the negotiations between both Koreas possible in the first place. He attributed the tough American stance on North Korea, which centers around sanctions and the threat of the use of force, as the main triggers behind Kim’s drive to seek rapprochement with the South. At the same time, Trump was noted expressing doubt that the intra-Korean talks will lead to “anything meaningful.” The US president also warned it is “very possible” that the standoff with North Korea may not be resolved peacefully.
While South Korean president Moon Jae-in persuaded Trump to delay the annual Foal Eagle military drills until after the ‘Peace Olympics,’ the US continues to seek unilateral pressure on Pyongyang in addition to numerous UN sanctions against the North.
Last week’s US-led ‘Vancouver Foreign Ministers Meeting on Security and Stability on the Korean Peninsula,’ represented by 20 foreign affairs ministers, agreed to consider “unilateral sanctions” to curb North Korea’s ballistic missile and nuclear programs. China and Russia were not invited.
On Wednesday, the US Treasury Department went on to sanction nine additional entities, including two Chinese firms, 16 North Korean individuals, and six North Korean vessels. Meanwhile US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “stressed the urgent need for all parties to implement UNSCRs related to North Korea.”
All the while, Koreans continue to edge closer to making the ‘Peace Olympics’ a successful event. Twenty-two athletes will represent North Korea at the games, competing in three sports and five disciplines, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said Saturday. Pyongyang also agreed to send a 140-member art troupe, including an orchestra, singers and dancers, for concerts in Seoul and Gangnueng during next month’s spectacle in PyeongChang. Seoul officials said Wednesday that Pyongyang is scheduled to send its athletes to South Korea on Thursday to inspect the competition venues. Earlier an official North Korean delegation, led by the head of the North’s Samjiyon Orchestra, traveled to the South to inspect Olympic performance venues.