N Korea offers talks, likely trying to get sanctions relief

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (AP) — The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said yesterday her country is willing to resume talks with South Korea if conditions are met, indicating it wants Seoul to persuade Washington to relax crippling economic sanctions.

Kim Yo Jong’s statement came days after North Korea performed its first missile tests in six months, which some experts said were intended to show it will keep boosting its weapons arsenal if the United States (US)-led sanctions continue while nuclear diplomacy remains stalled.

She offered the talks while mentioning South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s call, issued in a speech at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, for a political declaration to end the 1950-53 Korean War as a way to bring peace to the peninsula.

“Smiling a forced smile, reading the declaration of the termination of the war, and having photos taken could be essential for somebody, but I think that they would hold no water and would change nothing, given the existing inequality, serious contradiction therefrom and hostilities,” Kim Yo Jong said in the statement carried by state media. She said North Korea is willing to hold “constructive” talks with South Korea to discuss how to improve and repair strained ties if the South stops provoking the North with hostile policies, far-fetched assertions and double-dealing standards.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry said it’s carefully reviewing Kim Yo Jong’s statement. It said South Korea will continue its efforts to restore ties with North Korea.

A professor at Korea University in South Korea Nam Sung-wook said North Korea is putting indirect pressure on Seoul to work to arrange talks on easing the sanctions as it pushes for the declaration of the war’s end.

“It’s like North Korea saying it would welcome talks on the end-of-the war declaration if lifting the sanctions can also be discussed,” Nam said.

Visitors walk by a map showing North Korea’s capital Pyongyang and South Korea’s capital Seoul at the Imjingak Pavilion in Paju. PHOTO: AP