Sunday 27 May 2018

N Korea refuses to discuss nuclear arms in South talks

Vehicles transporting the South Korean delegation to the truce village of Panmunjo for talks.
Photo: Reuters
Vehicles transporting the South Korean delegation to the truce village of Panmunjo for talks. Photo: Reuters

Christine Kim and Hyonhee Shin

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

In a joint statement after 11 hours of talks, the North pledged to send a large delegation to next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea but made a "strong complaint" after Seoul proposed talks to denuclearise the Korean peninsula.

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

"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," said Pyongyang's chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon.

"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."

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged threats and insults in the past year, raising tensions on the peninsula.

In spite of Mr Ri's remarks, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it believed inter-Korean ties and a series of steps agreed in the talks could lead to discussion of a "fundamental resolution" of the nuclear issue.

"We will closely co-ordinate with the United States, China, Japan and other neighbours in this process," the ministry said in a statement.

Irish Independent

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