Not even a week since talks between the North and the South began, and North Korea is already trying to drive a wedge between the U.S. and South Korea by threatening to pull out of the Olympics over Seoul’s ties to Washington.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a speech Tuesday that President Donald Trump made a “huge contribution” to the talks held Tuesday at the Korean border. Trump “made a huge contribution to make inter-Korean talks happen,” Moon explained to reporters. “I’d like to express my gratitude.”
He reportedly said talks “could be the effect of the sanctions and pressure led by the U.S.”
As North Korea — as many observers predicted — wants to separate the South from its protector, the North rebuked the South Korean leader for his so-called “ill-boding” remarks.
“They should know that train and bus carrying our delegation to the Olympics are still in Pyongyang,” the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday, further arguing: “The South Korean authorities had better ponder over what unfavorable results may be entailed by their impolite behavior.”
Pyongyang called the liberal South Korean government as “a group of pro-U.S. traitors who are only keen on currying favor with their master and keeping their power even at the sacrifice of the Winter Olympics,” stressing that Moon’s statement “casts doubt as to his intent to improve the North-South ties and build confidence.”
North Korea has expressed frustration that Trump and Moon see talks as an opportunity for a denuclearized Korean Peninsula, as North Korea has made it clear that it has no intention of giving up its nuclear weapons. Negotiators from Pyongyang strongly criticized their southern counterparts for attempting to bring up North Korea’s illegal ballistic missile and nuclear weapons programs during talks at the border Tuesday.
The North has called all the shots in negotiations with the South. They rudely dismissed South Korea’s concerns over its weapons programs, however, North Korea has openly demanded that South Korea cancel joint military drills with the U.S. — exercises which Seoul and Washington agreed to delay until after the Olympics to maintain peace on the peninsula — and remove American military assets from the Korean Peninsula.
North Korea has also demanded the South return 12 defectors — which the North claims the South kidnapped — for family reunions between families torn apart by the war to be possible. North Korea knows how important this is to the Moon administration.
Aware of the significance the South places on the Winter Olympics to be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, which Seoul perceives as an opportunity for reconciliation, North Korea is holding that which the South considers precious hostage in order to extract concessions. North Korea’s behavior is consistent with its past behavior, yet it continues to claim that its ultimate goal is a peaceful peninsula.
For North Korea, the goal remains reunification on Pyongyang’s terms, but the U.S. military presence in the region poses a threat to these ambitions.
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