North Korea denies sanctions prompted diplomatic thaw

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Senior North Korean diplomat Choe Kang Il (in background) emerges from a restaurant in Helsinki, part of intense diplomacy over the Korean peninsula. afp


Seoul (AFP) – North Korea has broken its silence on the diplomatic thaw with Washington and Seoul, saying it is driving the “peace offensive” and rejecting suggestions that sanctions forced it to the negotiating table.

The commentary from the state-run KCNA news agency came with a rapid rapprochement on the Korean peninsula under way, after a period of heightened tensions stoked by missile and nuclear tests.

In order to prepare an inter-Korean summit scheduled for late April, South Korea yesterday proposed holding high-level talks with the North next week to discuss details including the summit’s dates and agenda.

But as diplomats scurry to arrange the North-South talks – and a mooted face-to-face meet between Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un – the North’s silence had raised concerns over its intentions.

The KCNA commentary late Tuesday did not directly mention the summits but noted the “dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation” with the South and “a sign of change” with the US.

It said Pyongyang’s overtures came from a position of strength, not from weakness, even as it confronts intense international pressure as well as biting economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons programme.

“The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires,” it said, using the North’s official name.

It also slammed hawks in Washington, Seoul and Tokyo for questioning the sincerity and motivation behind the North’s willingness to step back from the brink.

“Such rubbish as ‘result of sanctions and pressure’… spread by hostile forces is just as meaningless as a dog barking at the moon,” it said, urging “prudence” for all parties involved.

“It is really an expression of small-mindedness for the riff-raffs to spoil the atmosphere and say this or that even before the parties concerned are given a chance to study the inner thoughts of the other side and are seated at a negotiating table,” it said in typically colourful language.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in yesterday said a three-way summit including the two Koreas and the US could be possible, depending on the outcomes of the inter-Korean and US-North Korean summits.

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