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North Korea willing to hold talks with US, says South Korea

Gen Kim Yong-chol (centre) arrives in Paju, South Korea. Photo: 25 February 2018Image copyright
AFP/Getty Images

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Gen Kim (centre) is well-known in South Korea – and for a very good reason

North Korea is willing to hold talks with the US, South Korea says.

The announcement came after Gen Kim Yong-chol met South Korean President Moon Jae-in ahead of the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics.

US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka is also attending the ceremony, but US officials have ruled out meeting the North Korean delegation.

The US says North Koreans pulled out of a meeting with Vice-President Mike Pence during the opening ceremony.

The Korean rapprochement has been seen as a move by the North to drive a wedge between the South and the US.

General ‘willing’ to talk

Gen Kim met President Moon in Seoul before the closing ceremony began.

According to Mr Moon’s office, he said North Korea was “very willing” to hold talks with the US.

It added that the North had “agreed that inter-Korea talks and North-US relations should improve together”.

Pyongyang has often said it is willing to talk without any preconditions.

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AFP/Getty Images

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South Koreans protested against the general’s visit

However, the US has insisted that concrete steps towards denuclearisation take place first.

The revelation from the South Korean presidency came hours after a furious statement from the North that described fresh sanctions announced by Washington as “an act of war”.

Pyongyang’s foreign ministry praised the way the two Koreas had co-operated together during the Olympics, but said the US had “brought the threat of war to the Korean peninsula with large-scale new sanctions” just as the Games were coming to a close.

The Korean peninsula has been divided since the 1950-53 war and the two sides have never signed a peace treaty.

US cool on North-South thaw

North and South Korea marched under one flag at the opening ceremony, and fielded a unified women’s ice hockey team.

The North sent Kim Jong-un’s sister, Kim Yo-jong, to attend the opening ceremony of the Games.

But experts have cautioned that the latest developments do not put an end to underlying regional tensions, particularly following last year’s nuclear and missile tests carried out by the North.

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Mike Pence was seated directly in front of the North Korean delegation at the opening ceremony

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All sport/getty images

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Ivanka Trump is not expected to meet any North Korean delegates

A meeting between Mr Pence and Mr Kim’s sister was cancelled inexplicably by the North Koreans, US officials have said. North Korea has made no comment on the US reports.

It would have been the first official interaction between North Korea and the Trump administration.

Last Friday, US President Donald Trump warned of serious consequences if the latest round of sanctions did not generate results.

“If the sanctions don’t work we’ll have to go phase two – and phase two may be a very rough thing, may be very, very unfortunate for the world,” he said.

He did not specify what “phase two” would entail.

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