Kim seeks to boost 'warm climate of reconciliation' with South

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 the South, as his foes reiterated the need for maximum pressure and sanctions.

Mr Kim Jong Un gave instructions for measures aimed at more inter-Korea engagement after his younger sister Kim Yo Jong led the delegation on a three-day visit to Pyeongchang for the Winter Olympics, said North Korea's state controlled Korean Central News Agency yesterday. It did not say what the instructions were.

The United States has appeared to endorse deeper post-Olympics inter-Korea engagement that could lead to talks between Pyongyang and Washington. South Korean President Moon Jae In said yesterday the US is open to talking to North Korea, Mr Moon's spokesman said.

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

US officials want tough global sanctions to be ramped up to push the North to give up its nuclear efforts. That sentiment was repeated yesterday by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who said Mr Moon agreed it was necessary to keep up maximum pressure on North Korea.

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

Last year, North Korea carried out dozens of missile launches and its sixth and largest nuclear test in defiance of UN resolutions, in pursuit of its goal to develop a nuclear-armed missile capable of reaching the US.

WASHINGTON OPEN TO TALKS

The United States sees inter-Korean dialogue in a positive light and has expressed its openness for talks with the North.

SOUTH KOREAN PRESIDENT MOON JAE IN, to Latvian President Raimonds Vejonis.

Mr Moon, who was invited to meet Mr Kim in Pyongyang, has been pushing for a diplomatic solution to the standoff over North Korea.

The KCNA report made no mention of the summit offer.

Rather, Mr Kim gave his gratitude to Seoul for their "sincere efforts" to prioritise the delegation's visit, which were "very impressive", KCNA said.

Meanwhile, the North is in talks with the United Nations over unpaid dues, which North Korea said it could not settle due to banking sanctions, a spokesman said on Monday.

The North maintains it is unable to transfer nearly US$121,500 (S$161,000) owed to the UN after its Foreign Trade Bank was put on a sanctions blacklist in August.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2018, with the headline 'Kim seeks to boost 'warm climate of reconciliation' with South'. Print Edition | Subscribe