North and South Korea make amends

After its first talks with the South in more than two years, the North said that it would not discuss its nuclear weapons with Seoul because they were aimed only at the United States, not South Korea.

In a statement after 11 hours of talks, North Korea pledged to send a large number of representatives to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea but made a “strong complaint” after Seoul spoke to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

“All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” Pyongyang’s chief negotiator Ri Son Gwon said.

“This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today’s good achievement into nothing,” Ri, chairman of North Korea’s Committee for the “Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland,” warned in closing remarks.

Officials from both sides said they agreed to meet again to resolve problems and avert accidental conflict, amid high tension over North Korea’s intent to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States, but Pyongyang said disarmament would not be part of the discussions.

North Korea’s state-run media have been hitting the “one Korean nation” theme hard since leader Kim Jong-un struck a surprisingly pacifist tone toward Seoul in his annual New Year’s address.

The North’s hopes for negotiations that favour its position while excluding or minimising the role of the United States can be tough for South Korea.

South Korea has a strong alliance with Washington, and benefits greatly from being a trusted and close trading partner with the US, and has good historical cause to be wary of the North’s tactics.

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