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3RD LEAD White House cautious on North Korea's willingness to hold talks By Andreas Landwehr, dpa

Europe, Europa
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Pyeongchang, South Korea (dpa) - It remains to be seen whether North Korea‘s willingness to hold talks with the United States represents "first steps" towards denuclearization, the White House said in a statement released Sunday.

"We will see if Pyongyang‘s message today ... represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization," the White House said. "In the meantime, the US and the world must continue to make clear that North Korea‘s nuclear and missile programmes are a dead end."

The news comes after South Korea announced its northern neighbour‘s willingness to hold talks after a final flurry of diplomacy at the close of the Winter Olympics.

South Korean President Moon Jae In met high-ranking North Korean General Kim Yong Chol and his delegation for one hour ahead of the closing ceremony for the Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea‘s Yonhap news agency reported.

Kim told Moon in the meeting that Pyongyang "has enough intention to hold a North Korea-US dialogue," Yonhap cited a presidential spokesman as saying.

Moon said that talks between the US and North Korea "must be held at an early date" to help ease relations between Pyongyang and Seoul.

The US, under President Donald Trump, has been the main supporter of ever stricter sanctions against North Korea, in an effort to stop the secretive regime from pursuing its nuclear and missile programme.

The North-South meeting was the second such high-level dialogue during a Games that took on strongly political overtones given the tensions between the democratic South and authoritarian North, which are still technically at war.

The box for visiting dignitaries at the closing ceremony was closely watched for any encounters between the US and North Korea.

General Kim sat in the row behind the most senior US delegate, Ivanka Trump, the daughter of the president. Trump herself sat next to Moon and his wife.

There had been no meetings scheduled between the US and North Korean delegations, and Ivanka Trump "kept her eyes well away from the chief of the North Korean delegation," Yonhap reported.

General Vincent Brooks, the commander of US forces in Korea, was also in the VIP box.

Diplomacy and sport went hand in hand at the start of the Olympics as well, when a different North Korean delegation including Kim Yo Jong, sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, was on hand for the opening ceremony.

Kim Yo Jong at that time invited Moon to talks with her brother in Pyongyang. Her visit to the South was the first by a member of the communist state‘s ruling family since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Many oppose a rapprochement between the two Koreas, however. Hundreds of South Korean protesters greeted General Kim Yong Chol and the seven other members of his entourage as they crossed the border on Sunday.

The general is accused of having planned the 2010 torpedoing of a South Korean warship, which resulted in the deaths of 46 people.

As South Korea‘s traditional military backer, including during the 1950-53 Korean War, the US plays a key role in what happens on the peninsula.

The Trump administration on Friday slapped sanctions on companies and vessels from nine countries with links to North Korean shipping, in the latest package of financial measures aimed at putting pressure on Pyongyang over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.

North Korea‘s Foreign Affairs Ministry on Sunday called the sanctions a "warlike act" and that Washington would be responsible for "all tragedies" that could result.


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