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North Korea Is Willing to Talk With U.S., South’s Leader Says

On Sunday, North Korea called the news sanctions an “act of war.”

Mr. Moon has been working tirelessly to steer the United States and North Korea away from what he considered a collision course, urging them to open talks.

His efforts received a boost when he met with Vice President Mike Pence, who led an American delegation to the opening ceremony of the Olympics. United States officials has said that they were open to holding preliminary talks with North Korea — but only to explain that sanctions — and that pressure would not let up until the North starts denuclearizing.

Even if talks begin between the two sides, differences remain wide. North Korea insists on being recognized as a nuclear state. It says it will discuss its nuclear weapons programs only if Washington agrees to discuss broader arms reduction around the Korean Peninsula, which analysts say could include a demand for the withdrawal of United States troops from South Korea.

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President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Ivanka Trump at the closing ceremony on Sunday. Talks between North Korea and the United States would be a diplomatic victory for Mr. Moon. Credit Doug Mills/The New York Times

The statement from Mr. Moon’s office on Sunday indicated that both Mr. Moon and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, were eager to use the diplomatic opening created by the Olympics to improve inter-Korean ties.

“President Moon emphasized that South-North Korea relations must be expanded and improved widely,” the statement read. The North Korean delegates had said that Mr. Kim “shared the same desire,” it added.

The statement did not mention a potential inter-Korean summit meeting. Mr. Kim has invited Mr. Moon to Pyongyang, relaying his proposal through his sister, Kim Yo-jong, who attended the Olympics’ opening ceremony.

Mr. Moon has said he is willing to meet Mr. Kim to lower tensions further, but he also wanted Washington and Pyongyang to start a dialogue to settle the nuclear dispute. He has faced pressure both at home and from Washington not to improve ties until North Korea made progress in denuclearization.

On Sunday, conservative activists rallied near the Korean border and later in Pyeongchang to protest the visit from Kim Yong-chol. They waved South Korean and American flags and demanded that Mr. Kim be “punished.” The country’s main conservative opposition also called him a “mass murderer” and demanded his arrest.

Mr. Kim is widely blamed in the South for the sinking of a South Korean warship in 2010, when he was director of the North’s main spy agency. Forty-six South Korean sailors died in the sinking.

The spy agency, the General Bureau of Reconnaissance, was also widely believed to have launched a cyberattack at Sony Pictures in 2014 as a retaliation against the film “The Interview,” a comedy based on a fictional plot to assassinate Kim Jong-un. The spy master has also been on sanctions lists in the United States and South Korea for alleged involvement in the North’s nuclear program.

North Korea’s reported interest in talks with Washington contrasted with its frosty attitude earlier this month. South Korea had arranged a meeting between Ms. Kim and Mr. Pence while both were in South Korea for the opening ceremony, but the North Koreans pulled out at the last minute, according to United States officials.

American officials and some analysts suspected that North Korea was creating an inter-Korean thaw to soften its image and weaken international sanctions. But Koh Yu-hwan, a professor of North Korean studies at Dongguk University in Seoul, said that North Korea’s primary strategy was not to avoid sanctions but to get the United States to accept it as a nuclear weapons state in return for a freeze on its nuclear program.

Source: NYT > World

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