North Korea’s Kim seeks better ties with South, but slams US

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea leader Kim Jong Un expressed willingness to restore stalled communication lines with South Korea in coming days while shrugging off U.S. offers for dialogue as “cunning ways” to conceal its hostility against the North, state media reported Thursday.

Kim’s statement is an apparent effort to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as he wants South Korea to help him win relief from crippling U.S.-led economic sanctions and other concessions. Pyongyang has this month offered to meet with Seoul and also launched its sixth missile in six months. It is also voicing outrage at the United States.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting on Thursday at the request of the United States, the U.K. and France on North Korea’s recent tests.

During a speech at his country’s rubber-stamp parliament on Wednesday, Kim said the restoration in early October of cross-border hotlines — which have been largely dormant for more than a year — would realize the Korean people’s wishes for a peace between the two Koreas, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim still accused South Korea of being “bent on begging external support and cooperation while clamoring for international cooperation in servitude to the U.S.,” rather than committing to resolving the matters independently between the Koreas.

Kim echoed his powerful sister Kim Yo Jong’s calls for Seoul to abandon “double-dealing attitude” and “hostile viewpoint” over the North’s missile tests and other developments. Experts believe that North Korea has been pressuring South Korea not to criticize its missile testing, which have been banned under U.N. Security Council resolutions. This is part of the country’s quest for international nuclear power recognition.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry responded that it’ll prepare for the restoration of the hotlines that it said is needed to discuss and resolve many pending issues. They will be able to function smoothly, as they were restored by Kim Jong Un.

On the United States, Kim Jong Un dismissed repeated U.S. offers to resume talks without preconditions, calling them an attempt to hide America’s “hostile policy” and “military threats” that he said remain unchanged.

The Biden administration “is touting ‘diplomatic engagement’ and ‘dialogue without preconditions’ but it is no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts,” Kim said.

He added: “The U.S. remains utterly unchanged in posing military threats and pursuing hostile policy toward (North Korea) but employs more cunning ways and methods in doing so.”

He has warned he would bolster his nuclear arsenal and stay away from negotiations with Washington unless it drops its “hostile policy,” a term used to describe the U.S.-led sanctions and regular military drills between Washington and Seoul.

U.S. Although U.S. officials repeatedly stated their desire to meet with North Korea, they have insisted that sanctions will be maintained until North Korea takes concrete steps towards denuclearization. Diplomacy has been held hostage for two and a half years because of disagreements about the lifting sanctions in exchange for denuclearization.

China, North Korea’s last major ally, said Thursday it hopes the hotlines restoration would help improve ties between the two Koreas. It also asked the U.S. not to impose sanctions on the North’s civilian sector.

“The U.S. should avoid repeating empty slogans, but rather show its sincerity by presenting an appealing plan,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “It should invoke the rollback terms of the Security Council’s (North Korea)-related resolutions as soon as possible and make necessary adjustments to relevant sanctions.”

President Joe Biden told the U.N. General Assembly last week that his administration would seek “serious and sustained diplomacy” to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea’s outreach to Seoul came after South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who seeks progress in his appeasement policy on North Korea before he leaves office next May, proposed a symbolic peace declaration during his U.N. speech last week.

“Kim Jong Un will likely continue to use South Korea to move the Biden administration in its favor,” Kwak Gil Sup, head of One Korea Center, a website specializing in North Korea affairs, wrote on Facebook. He’ll try to divide South Korea from the U.S. more often. It’s a highly sophisticated strategy to make the best use of the impatience of the (Moon) government preoccupied with producing progress in its peace process on the Korean Peninsula in its final months in office.”

Meanwhile, Kim’s sister was elected as a member of the State Affairs Commission led by her brother during this week’s Supreme People’s Assembly session, KCNA reported. Kim Yo Jong was appointed to the post of a top ruling party official responsible for Pyongyang relations with Seoul. This is another indication that Kim is consolidating his rule in light of the economic hardships resulting from the Pandemic and sanctions.

Associated Press journalists Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations and Liu Zheng in Beijing contributed to this report.

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