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South Korea claims U.S. is open to talks with North Korea

Sheetal Sukhija - Wednesday 14th February, 2018

SEOUL, South Korea - Following the first rounds of talks being initiated between the two Koreas - the South Korean President Moon Jae In has now said that the U.S. has indicated that it is open to talks with the North.

A spokesman for President Moon Jae In said in a statement that the U.S. views recent talks between the two Koreas in a positive light. 

He added that the U.S. had indicated through multiple channels that it could seek talks with the North.

The U.S. has however, clarified that it will consider changes to its policy of talking to Pyongyang only if the North commits to denuclearization.

The South Korean President’s statement came as an indication of a shift in the Trump administration’s North Korean policy.

Moon Jae In’s statement also came merely days after U.S. Vice President Mike Pence visited Pyeongchang, South Korea for the Winter Olympics. 

While Pence left on Saturday, local media reports have claimed that Washington and Seoul have reached an understanding on the possibility of a dialogue with North Korea, however South Korean officials have not confirmed the statements.

Moon Jae In’s spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, told reporters, “The United States too looks positively at South-North Korean dialogue and has expressed its willingness to start dialogue with the North.”

The Trump administration had stressed, until recently, that no meetings would take place until the North had first taken steps toward disarmament.

U.S. President Donald Trump recently described Moon Jae In’s overtures to the North Koreans as “appeasement.” 

In December last year, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the United States was willing to hold a “meeting without precondition,” however, the White House insisted his comments were premature.

After leaving South Korea, Pence said in an interview with The Washington Post that the U.S. was open to a meeting with North Korea.

He even indicated that it would enter talks without preconditions.

Commenting on the punishing sanctions imposed on the North by the United Nations, Pence said, “So the maximum pressure campaign is going to continue and intensify. But if you want to talk, we’ll talk.”

If Washington however agrees to talks without any preconditions, it would come as a significant shift in its approach, and also as a win for Moon Jae In, who has hoped to bring North Korea and the United States to the negotiating table right from the start of his presidency.

After meeting with the South Korean leader last week, Pence told reporters, “President Moon and I reflected last night on the need to do something fundamentally different.”

He said that the allies would demand “at the outset of any new dialogue or negotiations” that North Korea “put denuclearization on the table and take concrete steps with the world community to dismantle, permanently and irreversibly, their nuclear and ballistic missile programs.”

He added, “Then, and only then, will the world community consider negotiating and making changes in the sanctions regime that’s placed on them today.”

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