South Korea is seeking to improve ties despite threats from the North


South Korea said Monday it would continue to seek to improve ties and resume talks with rival North Korea, despite threats by North to rekindle hostilities if Seoul holds summer military exercises with the United States.

On Sunday night, the powerful sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un warned that the exercises would seriously undermine efforts to restore mutual trust between Koreas and stun the prospects for better ties if training begins this month. Her statement questioned the sincerity of North Korea’s recent decision to reopen long-stalled communication channels with South Korea.

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The South Korean Ministry of Defense announced on Monday that the exact time, size and other details of the exercises have not been determined and that these are issues that must be determined by the South Korean and American authorities.

Spokesman Boo Seung-Chan reiterated his previous statement that Seoul and Washington are examining factors such as the current pandemic status, diplomats ’efforts to curb North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and South Korean-US military readiness.

Lee Jong-joo, a spokeswoman for the Unification Ministry, said Seoul sees the reconstruction of communication channels as a starting point for restoring long-broken ties between Korea. She said Seoul would constantly seek to resume talks with North Korea, but without haste.

North Korea sees regular military exercises between South Korea and the U.S. as a test of invasion and often responds to them with its own weapons tests. In recent years, however, South Korea and the United States have canceled or reduced part of their training to support now-dormant diplomacy to end North Korea’s nuclear crisis or because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Inter-Korean ties flourished after North Korea contacted South Korea and the United States in 2018 to discuss its nuclear program. North Korea later severed ties with South Korea after its larger nuclear diplomacy with the U.S. was halted in 2019.

Last Tuesday, the two Koreas renewed telephone and fax lines after a 13-month hiatus, raising hopes of improving ties between divided Koreas. But some experts say North Korea just wants to use South Korea to persuade it to make concessions before and when the halted nuclear diplomacy of North Korea and the U.S. is eventually restored.


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