N Korea’s Weapons “Only for US”, Not for “Brethren” South Korea
South Korea asked its neighbour to halt hostile acts that stoke tension in the peninsula.
North and South Korea on Tuesday agreed on negotiations to resolve problems and military talks aimed at averting accidental conflict, after their first official dialogue in more than two years, as Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme fuels tension.
North Korea also said it would not discuss its nuclear weapons in coming talks with Seoul because they were aimed only at the United States, not its "brethren" in South Korea.
In a joint statement after the 11-hour talks, the North pledged to send a large delegation to next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in the South, but made a 'strong complaint' after Seoul proposed talks to de-nuclearise the Korean peninsula.
South Korea asked its neighbour to halt hostile acts that stoke tension in the peninsula, and in return, the North agreed that peace should be guaranteed in the region, the South's unification ministry said in a separate statement.
"All our weapons including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia," said Pyongyang's chief negotiator Ri Son Gwon.
The talks had been closely watched by world leaders keen for any sign of a reduction in tension, as fears grow over the North's missile launches and development of nuclear weapons, in defiance of United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Earlier on Tuesday, Seoul said it was prepared to lift some sanctions temporarily so North Korean officials could visit the South for the Games. The North said its delegation would comprise athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers as well as reporters and spectators.
South Korea has unilaterally banned several North Korean officials from entry in response to Pyongyang's ramped-up missile and nuclear tests, held despite international pressure.
However, some South Korean officials have said they see the Olympics as a possible opportunity for easing tension.
Foreign ministry spokesman Roh Kyu-deok said Seoul would consider whether it needed to take “prior steps”, together with the UN Security Council and other relevant countries, to help the North Koreans visit for the Olympics.
Working talks will be held soon to work out the details of bringing the North Koreans to the Olympics, the statement said, with the exact schedule to be decided via documented exchanges.
At Tuesday's talks, the first since December 2015, Seoul proposed inter-Korean military discussions to reduce tension in the peninsula and a reunion of family members in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday, but the joint statement made no mention of the reunions.
The North has finished technical work to restore a military hotline with South Korea, Seoul said, with normal communications set to resume on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear what information would be transferred along the hotline.
The North cut communications in February 2016, following the South’s decision to shut down a jointly run industrial park in the North.
The United States, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings, but US President Donald Trump later called them "a good thing".
On Tuesday, China's foreign ministry said it was happy to see talks between North and South Korea and welcomed all positive steps. Russia echoed the sentiment, with a Kremlin spokesman saying, "This is exactly the kind of dialogue that we said was necessary."
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