North Korea is willing to talk with US, South's leader says

Eileen GuzmanMar 01, 2018

It emerged last week that Pence had planned to meet Kim Jong-un's younger sister on the sidelines of the opening ceremony, only for the plan to fall through at the last moment. But the U.S. says it must first take concrete steps toward disarming.

In a statement, South Korea's Unification Ministry said Pyongyang had accepted a proposal "to hold working-level talks" in the Panmunjom border village on the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea.

The United States is going to maintain a "campaign of maximum pressure" on North Korea, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told journalists in South Korea on Saturday.

"It's been an incredible couple of days, and such an honor and privilege to be here with our allies in South Korea and celebrate all that we've accomplished as a culture, a society, economically and, of course, in sport", she added.

South Korea's presidential office refused to confirm whether such an exchange would take place, Yonhap reported.

The Trump administration Friday announced what it called the "heaviest sanctions ever" placed on Pyongyang.

Pyongyang denounced them on Sunday just as Moon was meeting Kim Yong Chol.

While joining the US-led "maximum pressure" campaign against North Korea, the South Korean government has sought to use the momentum of inter-Korean dialogue to lead the United States and North Korean to talks.

It added that the North had "agreed that inter-Korea talks and North-US relations should improve together".

At a White House news conference on Friday, he warned that the USA would move to "phase two" in its pressure campaign if sanctions don't work.

"Like we have said repeatedly, we would consider any restrictions on us as an act of war, and we will not stop the U.S. if it really has the guts to confront us in a "rough" manner", the state-run KCNA news agency quoted the North's Foreign Ministry statement as saying. "To this, the North Korean delegates responded that the North was quite willing to start talks with the United States".

But Pyongyang Sunday slammed Trump's latest sanctions on its regime as "bringing clouds of war" over the peninsula.

Kim Yong Chol himself is blacklisted under Seoul's unilateral sanctions against the North, which subject him to an assets freeze.

The North's decision to send former military intelligence chief Kim Yong Chol as delegation leader to the closing ceremony has enraged families of 46 sailors killed in the torpedo attack on their ship and threatens the mood of rapprochement that Seoul wants to create at what it calls the "Peace Games".

But it was too early to take the North's comments as a major breakthrough.

"Execute Kim Yong Chol", chanted a group of some 30 relatives of the Cheonan victims at a rally in a Seoul city centre square.

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