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North Korea's Kim Jong Un offers to reopen hotline with South

Kim said he was willing to restore cross-border communication but rejected U.S. offers for talks as a "cunning" way to hide its hostility toward the North.
/ Source: Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea leader Kim Jong Un expressed his willingness to restore stalled communication lines with South Korea in early October to promote peace while shrugging off U.S. offers for dialogue as “cunning ways” to conceal its hostility against the North, state media reported Thursday.

Kim’s statement is an apparent effort to drive a wedge between Seoul and Washington as he wants South Korea to help him win relief from crippling U.S.-led economic sanctions and other concessions. Pyongyang this month has offered conditional talks with Seoul alongside its first missile firings in six months and stepped-up criticism of the United States.

The U.N. Security Council scheduled an emergency closed meeting on Thursday at the request of the United States, United Kingdom and France on North Korea’s recent tests.

During a speech at his country’s rubber-stamp parliament on Wednesday, Kim said the restoration of cross-border hotlines — which have been largely dormant for more than a year — would realize the Korean people’s wishes for a peace between the two Koreas, according to the official Korean Central News Agency.

Kim still accused South Korea of being “bent on begging external support and cooperation while clamoring for international cooperation in servitude to the U.S.,” rather than committing to resolving the matters independently between the Koreas.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un speaks during a parliament meeting in Pyongyang, North Korea, Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021.Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP

Kim repeated his powerful sister Kim Yo Jong’s calls for Seoul to abandon its “double-dealing attitude” and “hostile viewpoint” over the North’s missile tests and other developments, saying the fate of inter-Korean ties is at a critical juncture. Some experts say North Korea is pressuring South Korea to tone down its criticism of its ballistic missile tests, which are banned by U.N. Security Council resolutions, in a bid to receive an international recognition as a nuclear power.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry responded that it will prepare for the restoration of the hotlines that it said is needed to discuss and resolve many pending issues. It said the “stable operation” of the channels is expected because their restoration was directly instructed by Kim Jong Un.

On the United States, Kim Jong Un dismissed repeated U.S. offers to resume talks without preconditions, calling them an attempt to hide America’s “hostile policy” and “military threats” that he said remain unchanged.

The Biden administration “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 and an extension of the hostile policy pursued by the successive U.S. administrations,” Kim said.

He added: “The U.S. remains utterly unchanged in posing military threats and pursuing hostile policy toward (North Korea) but employs more cunning ways and methods in doing so.”

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North Korea has long described as “hostile policies” U.S.-led economic sanctions on it and regular military drills between Washington and Seoul. Kim Jong Un has said he would bolster his nuclear arsenal and not resume nuclear diplomacy with Washington unless such U.S. hostility is withdrawn.

U.S. officials have repeatedly expressed hopes to sit down for talks with North Korea “anywhere and at any time,” but have maintained they will continue sanctions until the North takes concrete steps toward denuclearization. The diplomacy has been stalled for 2 ½ years due to disagreements over easing the U.S.-led sanctions in return for limited denuclearization steps.

Prior to the launch Tuesday of what North Korea said was a new hypersonic missile, it also this month launched a newly developed cruise missile and a ballistic missile from a train. Both of those weapons could carry nuclear bombs to attack targets in South Korea and Japan, both key U.S. allies where a total of 80,000 American troops are stationed.

Kim Jong Un maintains a moratorium on testing a longer-range missile capable of reaching the American homeland, an indication he wants to keep alive chances for future diplomacy with the U.S.

After nearly 10 years in power, Kim Jong Un has said North Korea is facing its worst-ever crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S.-led sanctions and natural disasters. In his latest speech, he claimed progress toward the troubled economy but urged stronger efforts to tighten epidemic prevention measures and fulfill other objectives set during a January ruling Workers' Party congress.

Meanwhile, Kim's sister was elected as a member of the State Affairs Commission led by her brother during this week’s Supreme People’s Assembly session, KCNA reported. The appointment of Kim Yo Jong, who already is a senior Workers’ Party official who handles Pyongyang's relations with Seoul, is another sign Kim is solidifying his family's rule in the face of the difficulties.