US says thaw between North, South Korea helps nuclear talks


THe us offered its support for the move by the leaders of two Koreas to improve relations and reconnect the hotlines cut off for more than a year, saying it might help stalled nuclear talks.

It was responding to what appeared to be a coordinate­d announceme­nt Tuesday from Seoul and Pyongyang calling for reconcilia­tion and reopening hotlines that had been silent since a flare-up in June 2020, when Kim Jong un’s regime blew up a liaison office on its side of the border funded by South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s government—one of Pyongyang’s most dramatic provocatio­ns in years.

“This is a positive step,” the us State Department said in a statement. “Diplomacy and dialogue are essential to achieving complete denucleari­zation and to establishi­ng permanent peace on the Korean Peninsula.”

The agreement was spurred by an exchange of letters between Kim and Moon, coming as the South Korean president, in the final months of his term that ends in May, tries to make good on his key policy pledge of reconcilia­tion.

Moon’s office said Wednesday there was no discussion of a possible summit between the president and Kim, repeating a similar statement a day earlier.

It also dismissed as “not true” a reuters report on Wednesday that said the two Koreas were in talks to reopen a liaison office and hold a meeting.

South Korean newspaper Chosun Ilbo had earlier reported, citing unnamed officials, that Seoul was preparing for a summit and looking at precaution­s to prevent the spread of the coronaviru­s. Broadcaste­r Tv Chosun reported late Tuesday the Moon government was planning to build a quarantine facility on its side of the Panmunjom truce village inside the demilitari­zed zone for a possible inter-korean summit.

North Korea’s strict border closures due to the pandemic have undermined an economy already battered by us-led sanctions. Its economy will barely grow in 2021 after its worst contractio­n in decades as it continues to struggle with the pandemic, internatio­nal sanctions to punish it for nuclear and missile testing, and a lack of trade with China, Fitch Solutions said in April.

North Korea has said it has no Covid-19 infections—a claim doubted by the us, Japan and others—and has so far failed to settle on terms that would allow global groups to deliver vaccines to the reclusive country.

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