North Korea, US in tug of war over dialogue

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un

North Korea and the United States are in a tug-of-war over whether to resume dialogue as South Korea seeks to boost peace momentum surrounding the Korean Peninsula by mediating their talks.

On Monday, Pyongyang criticized Washington for “standing in the way of Korean reunification” in what is viewed as an attempt to take the initiative in future talks. This is in contrast to its earlier dialogue overture.

“The U.S. is throwing a wet blanket on our will to improve inter-Korean relations and pursue independent reunification,” said Uriminzokkiri, the regime’s state-controlled website.

“Washington apparently doesn’t welcome the reunification of Seoul and Pyongyang, continuously bringing in nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula to prevent the two Koreas from improving their bilateral ties,” it said.

Despite the rare peace momentum taking shape across the peninsula, South Korea has remained cautious over whether to accept a recent proposal by the North to hold an inter-Korean summit, due to the longstanding Seoul-Washington alliance.

President Moon Jae-in said last week the government aims to take advantage of the North’s reconciliatory gesture to pave the way for a U.S.-North Korea dialogue.

This has weakened the anti-Pyongyang stance in Washington, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Saturday expressing willingness to have talks with the North.

But the North still shows little sign of coming to terms with the mood for dialogue with the U.S., calling the latter a major source of intensifying tension on the peninsula, according to a commentary released Monday from Rodong Sinmun, the propaganda newspaper of Pyongyang’s Workers’ Party of Korea.

“If the ongoing thaw in inter-Korean relations comes to a dead stop, the U.S. would have to take full responsibility for the aftermath,” it noted.

Under the title of “provocations from war fanatics,” the commentary also denounced the U.S. for planning to resume joint military drills after the closing of the PyeongChang Paralympic Games next month.

“A sense of danger is sweeping across the Korean Peninsula, with massive strategic weapons and troops continuously deployed in the South,” it said.

South Korea’s Ministry of Unification remained careful over the planned resumption of the annual South-Korea-U.S. military exercises, as it will draw strong backlash from the regime. The ministry said the recent warming of inter-Korean relations is still like walking on eggshells, as Washington wishes to carry out the drills soon after the Olympics.

The exercise, which normally takes place around late February to early March every year, was postponed until after late March due to the ongoing PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics.

The decision came amid concerns over the North’s possible military provocations during the global sporting event. But the U.S. has in recent weeks reaffirmed its plan to resume the drill “right after” the closing of the Paralympics.

“The U.S. aims to put an end to the warming inter-Korean relations upon the closing of the Olympics by making a big noise over its plans to conduct the Key Resolve and Foal Eagle joint military drills,” the commentary said.

It also noted the U.S. has had no intention to promote peace on the peninsula from the beginning, only showing wicked behavior to spoil the mood for easing inter-Korean tension.

Even if the U.S. remains open to holding dialogue with the North, the former has underlined there will be “no compromise” with the regime.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday in a speech in Dallas that the country would continue “standing up against” the North Korean nuclear and missile programs, pledging to toughen political and economic pressure under the goal of denuclearizing the regime.

mhlee@ktimes.com

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