The Korea Herald

피터빈트

US wary over Seoul’s proposal of talks with NK

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : July 18, 2017 - 16:50

    • Link copied

Washington on Monday expressed veiled discomfort over Seoul’s offer of military talks with Pyongyang, indicating a potential future clash between the allies amid a prolonged nuclear standoff.

The Moon Jae-in administration on Monday proposed military talks and a separate Red Cross meeting with North Korea at the truce village of Panmunjeom. The invitation was aimed at reviving inter-Korean dialogue channels through tension-easing steps and a fresh round of reunions for families separated during the Korean War. 

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (AP-Yonhap) White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer (AP-Yonhap)

But the Donald Trump administration fell short of showcasing support for Seoul‘s overture, reflecting North Korea’s evolving threats following its recent test of an intercontinental ballistic missile and refusal to even discuss denuclearization.

“Well, obviously those comments came out of the Republic of Korea and I would refer you back to them,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a briefing in Washington, stressing that the current conditions for talks with the North remain inadequate. “That being said, I think the president has made clear in the past with respect that any type of conditions that would have to be met are clearly far away from where we are now.”

Seoul’s Foreign Ministry said it has provided a sufficient explanation to the US before the announcement, and will continue working on the issues based on a “clear and realistic” understanding of Pyongyang’s nuclear threats, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho June-hyuck said Tuesday. 

“We provided an explanation of our proposal (to the North) to the US and other nations before the announcement. ...Now we are currently waiting for the North’s response,” Cho said.

The sides are also expected to further discuss the matter, with Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha scheduled to attend the ASEAN Regional Forum early August in Manila and meet her key counterparts.

A Unification Ministry official also said the allies are on the same page, noting Monday’s offer is not an indication that the conditions for full-fledged dialogue have been met and is merely an attempt to host “the early stages of talks.”

“There is ‘no big gap’ between the White House’s statement (on the inter-Korean talk proposals) and our stance,” the official told reporters.

Experts are saying that Spicer’s reaction embodies the discomfort the US holds over South Korea’s decision.

“Spicer’s reaction reflects the US’ discomfort over South Korea’s decision to offer the military talk to the North during a diplomatically sensitive time,” Choi Kang, vice president for research at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies in Seoul, told The Korea Herald.

“This may sour the Seoul-Washington relationship, but it’s more complicated than it seems because the allies need to display a tight bilateral bond in order to stop North Korea from getting the better side of the bargain.”

Japan, for its part, struck a more downbeat tone, expressing open disagreement toward the Moon administration’s offer.

“This is a time for pressure,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters in New York on Monday, according to Kyodo news agency. Kishida was reportedly attending a UN meeting on development.

“We will closely work with the international community including South Korea in making North Korea take certain steps towards solving several issues.”

Norio Maruyama, Japan’s foreign ministry spokesperson who accompanied Kishida in New York echoed the minister’s remark saying that the pressure must come before conducting “a serious dialogue.”

By Jung Min-kyung (mkjung@heraldcorp.com)