N. Korea's Kim willing to reopen hotlines with South this month

SEOUL • North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is willing to restore severed inter-Korean hotlines this month, but accused the United States of proposing talks without changing its "hostile policy" to the country, state media KCNA reported yesterday.

Mr Kim made the remarks at the reclusive country's rubber-stamp Parliament, the Supreme People's Assembly, which gathered for a second day to discuss the government's political, economic and social agenda.

North Korea this week test-fired a previously unseen hypersonic missile, joining a race for the advanced weapons system led by major military powers, and again demanded that Seoul and Washington scrap their "double standards" over weapons development.

Mr Kim expressed his willingness to reconnect inter-Korean hotlines starting this month, but criticised the South's "delusion" over what it calls military provocations from the North.

North Korea severed the hotlines in early August in protest against joint South Korea-US military drills, just days after reopening them for the first time in a year.

The decision to reactivate the lines is to help "realise the expectations and desire of the entire Korean nation" for recovery and durable peace in cross-border relations, Mr Kim said.

"We have neither aim nor reason to provoke South Korea and no idea to harm it," he said, according to the official KCNA news agency.

South Korea's Unification Ministry responsible for inter-Korean affairs welcomed Mr Kim's offer on the hotlines, but did not comment on his other remarks.

Mr Kim took a tougher tone towards Washington, accusing President Joe Biden's new administration of "employing more cunning ways and methods" in pursuing military threats while still offering talks.

"The US is touting 'diplomatic engagement' and 'dialogue without preconditions', but it is no more than a petty trick for deceiving the international community and hiding its hostile acts," Mr Kim said.

The Biden administration has said it reached out to Pyongyang to break an impasse over talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear and missile programmes in return for US sanctions relief.

It has criticised North Korea's recent missile launches as "destabilising" and "threats".

The United Nations Security Council was set to meet behind closed doors yesterday over the North's latest test following requests from the United States, Britain and France, diplomats said.

Analysts say the North's carrot-and-stick approach is aimed at securing international recognition as a nuclear weapons state and at driving a wedge between Seoul and Washington, taking advantage of South Korean President Moon Jae-in's desire for a diplomatic legacy before his term ends in May.

"The North seems upset about the Biden administration having not made any concrete, tempting proposal to resume negotiations," said Professor Yang Moo-jin of the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul.

Pyongyang was attempting to foster a more positive mood towards North Korea in Seoul ahead of the upcoming presidential election and pressing Mr Moon to help shift US attitudes, he said.

Mr Kim did not refer to the North's recent missile tests, but touted "ultra-modern weapons which are being developed at an extremely fast speed" and capable of containing "hostile forces".

He also said that in order to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War, as suggested by Mr Moon at the recent UN General Assembly, both Koreas should withdraw "unfair and double-dealing attitudes and hostile viewpoints and policies" towards each other.

KCNA separately reported that Ms Kim Yo Jong, the leader's powerful sister, was named as a new member of the State Affairs Commission as part of a personnel reshuffle unveiled on the sidelines of the Parliament meeting.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 01, 2021, with the headline 'N. Korea's Kim willing to reopen hotlines with South this month'. Subscribe