North Korea censures Moon, says it is ‘willing to talk’ about halting nuclear program

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North Korea censures Moon, says it is ‘willing to talk’ about halting nuclear program

In its first official response to President Moon Jae-in's proposal for dialogue if the regime halts its weapons testing, North Korea lambasted Moon's "conflicting" stance towards inter-Korean relations and told him not to oppose its weapons program if he wishes to improve ties.

Without directly mentioning Moon's name, the North said through its official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) Wednesday night that South Korea's new administration was ignoring the "criminal schemes" of the past Park Geun-hye government and the United States, which brought the two Koreas to its current "worst-ever" state.

Moon, who had promised during election season to improve North-South relations, is now "foolishly" criticizing Pyongyang's nuclear and missile weapons, the KCNA said.

"It's practically the same as saying you don't want to hold talks when you offer dialogue then call the other side a 'provocateur' and try to round up international sanctions and pressure against it," said the North, adding that South Korea needs an "attitude adjustment."

Inter-Korean relations are so bad right now it is dubious whether the two countries could sit across from each other and work things out even if both sides show up at the discussion table with good will, the KCNA continued.

Pyongyang pressed Seoul to distance itself from "outer forces" like Washington, a warning it has given numerous times since Moon's inauguration on May 10.

Last Thursday, during his congratulatory remarks in a local ceremony that marked the 17th anniversary of the June 15th North-South Joint Declaration of peace and prosperity, Moon said he was willing to "sit knee-to-knee, head-on-head" with North Korea to discuss ways to implement the past joint inter-Korean declarations if Pyongyang refrained from conducting any additional missile or nuclear tests.

Among the key agenda, said Moon, could be normalizing ties between Washington and Pyongyang and the establishment of a "peace regime" on the peninsula.

But Moon also said the North must denuclearize and find a way to cooperate with the international community.

In an interview with "CBS This Morning" earlier this week, just days before he flies to Washington for a summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Moon reiterated the need for North Korean denuclearization.

In an interview with Wion, an Indian broadcaster, North Korea's ambassador to New Delhi Kye Chun-yong said Wednesday in English that his country was "willing to talk" about freezing its nuclear or missile testing temporarily "under certain circumstances," such as if the United States "completely stops" large-scale military exercises with South Korea "temporarily or permanently."

It was the first time this year North Korea has ever talked about the possibility of halting its missile and nuclear tests.

On the prospects of direct dialogue with Washington, Kye said North Korea is open "any time," as long as the United States does not demand any preconditions. If it pushes the North to denuclearize first, holding talks would be "unacceptable," he said.

Kye said the North "very" much supported inter-Korean dialogue and was waiting for the South's new government, but did not specify what exactly Pyongyang was waiting for. The diplomat said the reunification issue was "very important" but was quick to add that the two countries must not rely on "outside forces."

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