Pyongyang tells Seoul to distance from U.S.

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Pyongyang tells Seoul to distance from U.S.

In a bold effort to influence South Korea’s new liberal Moon Jae-in administration and its North Korea policy, Pyongyang urged Seoul on Sunday to distance itself from the United States and cooperate with the Kim Jong-un regime for better inter-Korea relations.

The Rodong Sinmun, North Korea’s state-run newspaper and official mouthpiece, blamed the conservative Park Geun-hye administration for molding the relationship into its “worst-ever” condition, lamenting the absence of dialogue or cooperation.

Without mentioning Moon’s name, Pyongyang said the two countries were now at a “crossroad,” adding “either we choose to embark on a track of improving relations or repeat the vicious cycle of confrontation.”

“The U.S. is ceaselessly trying to form tension” on the Korean Peninsula, Pyongyang said. “They keep sending nuclear-powered strategic weapons to South Korea like aircraft carriers and bombers,” which actually are intended to invade the North by launching another war.

At one point, the North called on the local government to live up to the historic June 15th North-South Joint Declaration, an inter-Korea agreement promoting peace between the two countries.

The joint declaration was adopted on June 15, 2000, by then-South Korean President Kim Dae-jung and North Korean leader Kim Jong-il as a result of the inter-Korea summit in 2000, the first time since the end of the Korean War that leaders of both Koreas came face-to-face for discussions.

The five-point declaration says Seoul and Pyongyang agreed to “solve the question of the country’s reunification independently by the concerted efforts of the Korean nation,” to promote the “balanced development” through economic cooperation and “build mutual confidence by activating cooperation and exchanges in all fields.”

Last week, the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korea relations, gave permission to a local civic group to contact its North Korean counterpart to prepare for a joint event celebrating the 17th anniversary of the declaration, which falls next week. Experts speculate that Moon may be aiming to set new peaceful grounds with Pyongyang in time for the special day.

In a stark contrast, North Korea said in a separate commentary issued through the Rodong Sinmun on Sunday that it was “unfazed” by U.S. President Donald Trump’s North Korea policy of maximum pressure, adding “we will no longer fall for that old trick.”

“The U.S. has the final call,” Pyongyang warned in its characteristically bombastic tone. “Either it scraps its hostile North Korea policy or entirely receives our forceful, merciless shower of nuclear attacks.

“There is no other option.”

If the Trump White House ignores this “warning,” Pyongyang vowed to add momentum to its nuclear strike capability, which it claims can already hit the U.S. mainland.

Experts in Seoul and Washington generally acknowledge North Korea’s advancement in its nuclear and missile development program but say the regime is not capable yet of attacking the U.S mainland, which would require an intercontinental ballistic missile.

On Friday in New York, the United Nations Security Council said it would apply existing sanctions to 14 North Korean individuals and four entities.

The decision, adopted unanimously by the 15-member body, condemned “in the strongest terms” North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile development activities, including a series of ballistic missile launches, the UNSC said in a statement.

U.S Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the message was clear: “Stop firing ballistic missiles, or face the consequences.”

“It is long past time for North Korea to see the writing on the wall,” Haley said while explaining the election results. “The United States will work tirelessly to make sure that the international community never gets used to North Korea’s violations or looks the other way.”

The ambassador also called on other countries to “sever diplomatic ties and cease illegal trade with North Korea.”

The UNSC’s newly adopted Resolution 2356 imposes a travel ban and asset freeze on numerous North Korean officials, including Cho Il-u, director of the Fifth Bureau of the Reconnaissance General Bureau; Cho Yon-chun, vice director of the Organization and Guidance Department; Choe Hwi, first vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department; Jo Yong-won, vice director of the Workers’ Party of Korea’s Organization and Guidance Department; Kim Chol-nam, president of Korea Kumsan Trading Corporation; Kim Kyong-ok, vice director of the Organization and Guidance Department; Kim Tong-ho, Tanchon Commercial Bank’s Vietnam representative; Ri Su-yong, official at Korea Ryonbong General Corporation and Ri Yong-mu, vice chairman of the State Affairs Commission.

North Korean entities slapped with an asset freeze include the Strategic Rocket Force of the Korean People’s Army, Kangbong Trading Corporation, Korea Kumsan Trading Corporation and Koryo Bank.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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