North accuses U.S. of using declaration for leverage

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North accuses U.S. of using declaration for leverage

Pyongyang accused Washington Tuesday of using a declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a “bargaining chip” for denuclearization, saying the regime won’t “particularly hope for it” if the United States doesn’t want it, either.

The remarks, made in a commentary from the North’s state-run Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), came as both Koreas have been pressing the United States to sign a formal declaration to end the war, which ended in an armistice, not a peace treaty, leaving the South and North technically still at war. The United States has refused this, saying significant progress in North Korea’s denuclearization, such as a complete inventory of Pyongyang’s nuclear stockpiles and related facilities, has to come first.

By giving the impression it was brushing off the end-of-war declaration, which the North had fervently requested before, South Korean analysts believe the regime is trying to gain the upper hand in upcoming talks with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, as U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepares for a fourth visit to Pyongyang later this month.

The planned visit is aimed at laying the groundwork for North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s second summit with Trump.

Without directly referring to the Trump administration, an English version of the KCNA article, entitled “War End Is Not Just Gift: KCNA Commentary,” said Tuesday that “Some Korean issue experts of America” were trying to force the North to disclose information about its nuclear capabilities, dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility as well as a missile facility in return for a declaration to end the war.

“The end of war … is not just a gift from a man to another at all,” the article read. “Furthermore, it can never be a bargaining chip for getting the DPRK denuclearized,” it continued, referring to the North by the initials of its official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The piece added that the end-of-war declaration should have been resolved half a century ago and that the United States was trying to “subdue” the North by resorting to sanctions.

“Whoever is truly interested in the settlement of the nuclear issue on the Korean peninsula,” the KCNA went on, “should approach it with a proper understanding of the historic origin and essence of the nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula.”

Pyongyang’s apparent belittlement of the end-of-war declaration is a blow to the Moon Jae-in administration which sees the declaration as a critical stepping stone towards denuclearizing the peninsula and establishing peace. Chung Eui-yong, head of the National Security Office in the Blue House, said early last month that a declaration to end the war was a “very necessary process” toward denuclearization.

South Korea’s former unification minister, Lee Jong-seok, said the North was probably sending a message to the United States not to dispatch Pompeo empty-handed.

“There’s no way North Korea will give up on a declaration to end the war ahead of another U.S.-North summit,” said Lee.

“Chairman Kim Jong-un set the deadline for denuclearization by the end of Trump’s term, but then President Trump said he wasn’t in a rush, so the North is nudging the United States to work harder” on the issue.

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