Is Kim Yo-jong’s response to call for end-of-war declaration a green light for inter-Korean talks?

Posted on : 2021-09-27 18:21 KST Modified on : 2021-09-27 18:21 KST
North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song commented positively on Moon’s remarks about the end-of-war declaration as well, but qualified his statement by saying that without the US withdrawing hostile policies, the end-of-war declaration was “something premature”
Kim Yo-jong takes part in a banquet for high-ranking North and South Korean officials during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 10, 2018. (pool photo)
Kim Yo-jong takes part in a banquet for high-ranking North and South Korean officials during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Feb. 10, 2018. (pool photo)

Kim Yo-jong, vice director of Workers’ Party of Korea (WPK) Central Committee, responded Friday to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s remarks before the UN General Assembly proposing a declaration ending the Korean War.

“We have willingness to keep our close contacts with the south again and have constructive discussion with it about the restoration and development of the bilateral relations if it is [. . .] not hostile toward us,” she said.

While Kim mentioned the removal of “hostile policy and unequal double standards” as preconditions, her reference to the end-of-war declaration proposal as an “admirable idea” has many watching to see whether inter-Korean dialogue can get off the ground again.

Kim’s remarks came in a statement published that day by the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

“The declaration of the termination of the war is an interesting and an admirable idea in that it itself is meant to put a physical end to the instable state of ceasefire that has remained on the Korean peninsula for a long time and to withdraw hostility toward the opposite party,” she wrote.

“There is nothing wrong in the declaration of the termination of the war itself,” she also said.

It was North Korea’s first mention of the possibility of inter-Korean relations improving since it severed inter-Korean communication hotlines on Aug. 10 in response to joint South Korea-US command post exercises.

But Kim also said, “For the termination of the war to be declared, respect for each other should be maintained and prejudiced viewpoint, inveterate hostile policy and unequal double standards must be removed first.”

Her remarks appeared to be a reference to North Korea’s long-range cruise missile and short-range ballistic missile test launches being characterized as “provocations” by the South while it was conducting its joint military exercises with the US and carrying out its own recent submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) test launch.

“What needs to be dropped is [South Korea’s] double-dealing attitudes, illogical prejudice, bad habits and hostile stand of justifying their own acts while faulting our just exercise of the right to self-defence,” she stressed.

Kim’s statement came hours after the publication of another statement credited to North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae-song.

In his statement, Ri said an end-of-war declaration “holds a symbolic meaning,” but suggested it was “something premature” without the “US withdrawal of its double-standards and hostile policy.”

While Ri’s statement represented the official position of North Korean authorities toward the US, Kim’s expressed a political message toward the South. Together, they were seen as demanding the US’s abandonment of hostile policies and South Korea’s assumption of a more proactive role.

Prior to Kim’s statement, Moon shared on Thursday that the “relevant countries were not unenthusiastic” about an end-of-war declaration during a talk with reporters on the Code One presidential aircraft on his way back from a visit to the US.

Moon’s remarks had been interpreted as affirming that the idea of an end-of-war declaration was not something the US opposed — as the country effectively holding the key to such a declaration. The subsequent statement by Kim has prompted cautious anticipation that inter-Korean and North Korea-US relations may begin emerging once again from their long deadlock.

Commenting on Kim’s statement in an appearance on the YTN network, Blue House Senior Presidential Secretary for Public Communication Park Soo-hyun said it was being “taken as something quite meaningful and important,” while cautioning that it was “too soon to speak about South Korea’s response or the government’s position.”

He also suggested a favorable interpretation of the remarks as a “message [from the North] that the door to dialogue is open” and as a “message that tells [South Korea] to ‘play a role.’”

With Moon having previously rocked the boat with his end-of-war declaration remarks, analysts are saying future developments will depend on how proactively Washington responds to the “signal” from Pyongyang.

By Kim Ji-eun, staff reporter

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