In a familiar tactic of coupling saber-rattling and peace overtures, North Korea called for the incoming Seoul government’s efforts to put cross-border relations back on track amid signs of its impending nuclear test.
The Choson Sinbo, a Tokyo-based mouthpiece for the communist regime, said Wednesday that the resumption of inter-Korean dialogue hinged on Seoul’s attitude under President-elect Park Geun-hye.
“In the wake of the United Nations Security Council sanctions, the new government’s behavior will be the touchstone for the ‘trust-building process’ for the normalization of the North-South relations,” the newspaper said, referring to Park’s pet initiative for peninsular peace.
The much-touted “trustpolitik” doctrine put top priority on trust in reconciliation between the two Koreas and calls for humanitarian support and expanded economic cooperation.
North Korea “has concluded that the U.S.’ hostile policy had reached its peak through the UNSC resolution and declared the end of denuclearization talks,” the newspaper said.
“But there is enough possibility for the opening of the window of dialogue if the South attempts to resolve the standoff for the people’s common interests.”
The demand comes on the heels of a weeks-long string of threats of a third nuclear test in retaliation for the latest UNSC sanctions. Its 15 members on Jan. 22 added six institutions and four people to its blacklist to punish Pyongyang for its Dec. 12 rocket launch.
One day after the resolution’s approval, the North said “the six-party talks and the joint Sept. 19 statement were rendered null and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula was put to an end” due to Washington’s deepening hostility.
The softened tone draws a sharp contrast with its heightening rhetoric against not only the U.S. but also China and Russia, the regime’s two traditional partners and veto-wielding UNSC members. Their endorsement of the new sanctions has apparently irked North Korea, precipitating veiled friction.
Beijing has in particular come under mounting pressure to dissuade its ally from the atomic test. It has threatened to slash assistance in case of another nuclear test and is believed to be tightening cargo inspections along their border.
Vice Foreign Minister Fu Ying has repeatedly summoned North Korean Ambassador Ji Jae-ryong since the regime threatened a “high-level nuclear test targeting the U.S.” on Jan. 24, while Chinese Ambassador to Pyongyang Liu Hongcai urged restraint during meetings with senior executives there.
Rumor has it that the North has spurned a visit by Wu Dawei, China’s special representative for Korean Peninsula affairs, though some diplomats expressed skepticism.
But Chinese officials have reportedly said they would not send any envoy to Pyongyang during their meeting with Glyn Davies, U.S. special representative for North Korea policy, on Jan. 25-26.
In Russia, Valentina Matvienko, a close aide to President Vladimir Putin and chairman of the Federation Council, had pushed for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un only to be turned down, according to state-run Itar-Tass agency.
Meanwhile, Pyongyang threatened Wednesday to turn the Gaeseong Industrial Complex back into a frontline military base after the South said it will tighten screening of shipments to the area in line with the latest UNSC resolution.
It has also lashed out at a South Korea and U.S. joint naval exercise and a smaller drill by the South Korean military early this week, accusing them of preparing for war.
“If anyone touches the Gaeseong district at all, we will consider it to be an atrocious sanction against us and take stern measures such as withdrawing all incentives associated with the complex and recreating the area as our military zone,” the North’s National Economic Cooperation Committee said in a statement carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.
With the unruly state seen as technically ready for another detonation, neighboring countries have been ramping up warnings and last-ditch diplomacy to facilitate policy coordination.
Park showed a rare bipartisan effort with Saenuri Party chairman Hwang Woo-yea and interim Democratic United Party leader Moon Hee-sang on Thursday to urge North Korea to immediately halt its high-stake plan.
In Washington, State Department Victoria Nuland reiterated that the U.S. “remains firmly committed to the undertakings in UNSC Resolution 2087, and if provocations continue, there will be continued consequences.”
Park’s high-profile envoys arrived in the U.S. capital on Wednesday to discuss the nuclear threat, the alliance and other pressing issues.
Saenuri floor leader Lee Hahn-koo is leading the three-day mission also consisting of other lawmakers and senior government officials including Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Kyou-hyun.
By Shin Hyon-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org