N. Korea leader hails 'warmth' with South

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A foreign visitor, right, stands for a photo with a Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldier in front of a portrait of late North Korean leader Kim Jong IL, at the 22nd Kimjongilia Festival flower festival marking the upcoming 'Day of Shining Star', the anniversary of the Kim's birth, in Pyongyang on Tuesday. — AFP

SEOUL — North Korea’s leader said he wants to boost the “warm climate of reconciliation and dialogue” with South Korea after his high-level delegation returned from a visit to the South, as his foes reiterated the need to keep up maximum pressure and sanctions.

Kim Jong Un gave instructions for measures aimed at more inter-Korean engagement after his younger sister Kim Yo Jong led a three-day visit to the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea’s state media reported on Tuesday.

It did not specify what those instructions were.

The United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics engagement between the two Koreas that could lead to talks between Pyongyang and Washington. South’s President Moon Jae-in said on Tuesday the United States is open to talking with North Korea, Moon’s spokesman told a briefing.

“The United States sees inter-Korean dialogue in a positive light and has expressed its openness for talks with the North,” Moon told Latvian President Raimonds Vējonis, according to the spokesman.

US officials also want tough international sanctions to be ramped up to push North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

That sentiment was repeated by Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday, who said Moon had agreed it was necessary to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea.

Last year, North Korea conducted dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of UN resolutions as it pursues its goal of developing a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the United States.

Japanese officials took pains to stress there was no daylight between Japan, the United States and South Korea on their approach to dealing with North Korea.

The United States’ “fundamental policy” aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula has not changed, said a senior Japanese diplomat in a briefing to lawmakers.

“The goal is denuclearization and the process is dialogue for dialogue, action for action, so if North Korea does not show actions, the United States and Japan will not change their policies,” he said.

A senior military official stationed at the border between North and South Korea said North Korea has lowered the volume of its border propaganda broadcasts since the Olympics’ opening ceremony on Feb. 9.

“I still hear it, but it is much less than before,” said the official who is stationed on the southern side of the border and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Moon, who was offered a meeting with Kim Jong Un in Pyongyang via his sister, has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.

Seoul is planning to push ahead with its plans for reunions of family members separated by the 1950-53 Korean War in order to sustain the dialogue prompted by the North Korean delegation’s visit.

Meanwhile, Trump urged Russia to do more in urging North Korea to scrap its nuclear program, the White House said on Monday, aimed at intensifying the pressure campaign on Pyongyang.

Talk of an inter-Korean summit, which would be the first since 2007 if it happened, come after months of tension between Pyongyang, Seoul and Washington. — Reuters


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