Kim Yo-jong says Moon's call to end war is 'admirable idea'
Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, said Friday that President Moon Jae-in's proposal at the United Nations to declare a formal end to the 1950-53 Korean War was an "admirable idea" and indicated that Pyongyang is open to "constructive discussions" with Seoul, under the right conditions.
In an English-language statement carried by the North's official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Kim said that an end-of-war declaration "is an interesting and an admirable idea in that it itself is meant to put a physical end to the instable state of ceasefire that has remained on the Korean peninsula for a long time and to withdraw hostility toward the opposite party."
Referring to Moon's address to the UN General Assembly, Kim, the vice department director of North Korea's ruling Workers' Party Central Committee who often serves as a mouthpiece for her older brother, noted the "necessity and significance" of such a declaration, which she described as "an initial step for establishing a peace-keeping mechanism on the Korean peninsula."
Kim added that Pyongyang has "willingness to keep our close contacts with the south again and have constructive discussion with it about the restoration and development of the bilateral relations if it is careful about its future language and not hostile toward us," accusing Seoul of "double-dealing standards" in the past.
In a more amicable tone than her recent past statements, Kim said that "there is nothing wrong in the declaration of the termination of the war itself," but added "it is necessary to look into whether it is right time now and whether there are conditions ripe for discussing this issue."
Moon in his address to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly in New York Tuesday proposed that the two Koreas, the United States, and possibly China, "come together and declare that the war on the Korean Peninsula is over."
He added, "When the parties involved in the Korean War stand together and proclaim an end to the war, I believe we can make irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace." Moon has raised the idea in past speeches to the UN, but this was the most concrete proposal to date.
The Korean War ended with an armistice agreement signed by the U.S.-led UN Command, North Korea and China on July 27, 1953, rather than a peace treaty. Thus, the two Koreas remain in a technical state of war.
The Joe Biden administration has proposed unconditional dialogue, anytime, anywhere, but so far Pyongyang has not responded to such offers. Kim Yo-jong's latest statement could indicate a slight shift in tone from the North amid a continued standstill in denuclearization negotiations.
Her remarks come after North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song said in another statement released earlier Friday that an end-of-war declaration was "premature" and meaningless as long as the United States doesn't change its "hostile policy."
Ri said in an English-language statement carried by the KCNA, "It will be truly admirable if peace comes to the Korean peninsula just by relevant parties holding a ceremony while having photos taken with the declaration document on the termination of war of no legal binding force."
He added that there is no guarantee that a "mere declaration of the termination of the war would lead to the withdrawal of the hostile policy toward the DPRK, under the present situation on the peninsula inching close to a touch-and-go situation," referring to the acronym for the North's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
He specifically pointed to the U.S. test-firing of Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) earlier this year and its recent decision to help build nuclear-powered submarines for Australia, which he said "targets" North Korea.
"Nothing will change as long as the political circumstances around the DPRK remains unchanged," he said, "although the termination of the war is declared hundreds of times."
Ri stressed that the "U.S. withdrawal of its double-standards and hostile policy" is its top priority in stabilizing the situation and ensuring peace on the Korean Peninsula.
He added that such a declaration is "of no help at all to stabilizing the situation of the Korean peninsula at the moment but can rather be misused as a smokescreen covering up the U.S. hostile policy."
The United States is "open to discussing the possibility of an end-of-war declaration" with North Korea, said John Kirby, spokesman of the U.S. Department of Defense, in a press briefing Wednesday.
He said that Washington will "continue to seek engagement" with Pyongyang to address a variety of issues, including such a declaration, for the goal of the "complete denuclearization of the peninsula."
Park Soo-hyun, senior Blue House secretary for public communication, told YTN Friday that Kim Yo-jong's statement "appears to be sending a message on South Korea's role."
He said Seoul views the remarks as being "very significant and weighty and is in the process of accurately analyzing it."
He returned with 68 sets of remains of South Korean soldiers killed in the Korean War, handed over by the United States the previous day. South Korea also transferred the remains of six U.S. servicemen in a joint repatriation ceremony, the first of its kind held abroad, in Honolulu Wednesday.
A repatriation ceremony for two identified soldiers, privates first class Kim Seok-joo and Jung Hwan-jo, and the 66 other unidentified servicemen, was held at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, Gyeonggi.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]