August 04, 2021 09:56
South Korea's spymaster on Tuesday claimed North Korea is "willing" to improve cross-border relations if joint South Korea-U.S. military drills are suspended.
"It was North Korean leader Kim Jong-un who requested the reconnection of inter-Korean communication lines, which shows his intention to improve inter-Korean relations," National Intelligence Service chief Park Jie-won told the National Assembly's Intelligence Committee.
Park said South Korea should "consider taking a flexible approach toward the joint drills to maintain momentum of dialogue and draw a big picture of North Korea's denuclearization."
That is more or less the official government line but unlikely to win any sympathy from the U.S., which insists the drills must go ahead to provide vital training.
Kim Jong-un's younger sister Yo-jong earlier this week demanded that the drills be suspended.
Park's comments provoked fury among opposition lawmakers, who reported his remarks made behind closed doors to the press. People Power Party lawmaker Ha Tae-keung said the NIS, which is supposed to take care of South Korea's national security, has "degenerated as an agency that actually follows orders from Kim Yo-jong."
The main opposition party called for the drills to go ahead as planned since there has been no apology from the North for blowing up inter-Korean liaison office in 2020 and the killing of a South Korean civilian official at sea last year.
NIS officers also told the committee that the North wants restrictions scrapped on exports like minerals and refined oil and imports of "daily necessities" as a precondition for any talks with the U.S.
They said the "daily necessities" include luxury whisky and clothing, which are not "exclusively for Kim Jong-un alone but for the elite in Pyongyang."
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