August 23, 2017 12:03
President Moon Jae-in again raised the prospect of reopening the inter-Korean Kaesong Industrial Complex on Monday, citing the need "to begin talks with North Korea." Moon was speaking in a meeting with dovish U.S. Senator Edward Markey.
The senator was in Seoul with a congressional delegation including senators Jeff Merkley and Chris Van Hollen, and House representatives Carolyn Maloney and Ann Wagner.
A Cheong Wa Dae official said, "If North Korea does not resort to additional provocations during the Ulchi Freedom Guardian joint military exercises, we may see a resumption in efforts to hold talks."
North Korea has threatened "relentless retaliation and punishment" for staging the joint drills but earlier called off ostensible plans to attack the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam.
During his U.S. visit in late June, Moon admitted it will be impossible for now to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex, which was shut down by South Korea in 2016 after North Korea's test launch of a long-range rocket. Moon added North Korea would have to display a sincere attitude toward scrapping its nuclear weapons for talks to resume.
Since then, North Korea has test fired two Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missiles and even threatened Guam. A Cheong Wa Dae official said Moon's remarks to the U.S. lawmaker were "his basic views. No discussions were held about specific timing for the resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex."
Cheong Wa Dae officials remain optimistic about chances of dialogue with North Korea after the annual military exercises end. Another Cheong Wa Dae official said if they pass without any North Korean provocation, "we will see conditions ripen for talks in September and dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang could be possible as well."
A key Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters on Monday, "If North Korea does not resort to any provocations during the UFG drills and even if it does, the situation will get better as long as the provocation is not more intense than what we have seen so far."
On Aug. 10, when the U.S. and North Korea were engaged in a heated war of words, Cheong Wa Dae said it was hopeful that the U.S. and North Korea would engage in talks as tensions mount further.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Tuesday expressed similar sentiments. "We have had no missile launches or provocative acts on the part of North Korea since the unanimous adoption of the UN Security Council resolution" last month, he told reporters.
"We hope that this is the beginning of this signal that we've been looking for -- that they are ready to restrain their level of tensions, they're ready to restrain their provocative acts, and that perhaps we are seeing our pathway to some time in the near future having some dialogue."
But North Korea issued a statement through the border truce village of Panmunjom warning of "relentless retaliation and merciless punishment" as long as the "U.S. warmongers" continue to engage in the joint military drills, which Pyongyang described as "dangerous military provocations."
The North added that its missiles are primed for launch as it monitors South Korean and U.S. military activities to deliver a "torrential rainfall of punishment" and warned that the U.S. would "bear total responsibility for the aftermath of destruction."
The North's Uriminzokkiri website posted a YouTube video of Kim Rak-gyom, the commander of the Strategic Forces, announcing Pyongyang's plans to envelope Guam with missile fire, footage of the Hwasong-12 being launched and a simulated image of the U.S. territory being bombed.
The website said the U.S.' weak point would be exposed if even one missile falls next to Guam.
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