South Korea Pushes US To ‘Lower Its Bar’ For Talks With North Korea

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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South Korean President Moon Jae-in is urging Washington to “lower its bar” for talks with North Korea, as the White House remains hesitant in its response to Pyongyang’s latest overtures.

North Korea expressed a “willingness to have talks” with the U.S., insisting its door is open, but the U.S. is approaching the situation cautiously. “We want to talk [with North Korea] but under the right conditions,” President Donald Trump said Monday.

“The door remains open for dialogue with the United States,” North point man for inter-Korean affairs Kim Yong Chol revealed at a Monday meeting with Moon, according to South Korean presidential office Blue House. Kim’s comments followed another overture Sunday.

The North’s position is surprising given the recent revelation that the North Korean delegation at the Winter Olympics canceled a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence only two weeks ago. Pence told The Washington Post a few days later the U.S. is ready to engage the North in dialogue.

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“We will see if Pyongyang’s message that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” the White House said in response to North Korea’s offer, adding, “The maximum pressure campaign must continue until North Korea denuclearizes.”

Moon, eager to see peace on the Korean Peninsula and convinced dialogue is key, is pushing the U.S. to decrease the North Korea-discussion threshold. “The United States needs to lower its bar for dialogue,” the South Korean president stressed Monday, “and the North, too, must show its willingness to denuclearize.”

“It is important so that the U.S. and North Korea may sit down face to face,” he added.

Moon’s comments contradict his earlier announcement that America’s tough stance helped bring North Korea to the table in the first place.

North Korea’s intentions are difficult to determine. While there is a possibility Pyongyang wants peace, many Korea watchers argue the North Korea is trying to derail Trump’s maximum-pressure campaign or buy time to bolster its nuclear force. North Korea has used this approach in the past to advance its own interests. North Korea has agreed to denuclearize on multiple occasions, yet the North has continued to advance its offensive-weapons capabilities, testing intercontinental ballistic missiles and thermonuclear bombs.

“We’ll see what happens. That’s my attitude. We’ll see what happens,” Trump said Monday.

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