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United Nations envoy says no change in USA position on North Korea talks

09 January 2018

"Considering that a variety of channels will be necessary if we assume that the Unification Ministry will be taking the lead in inter-Korean talks moving forward, I think they took the right approach to appointing people [to the negotiating teams]", said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior research fellow at the Sejong Institute.

On Sunday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley stated there would be "no turnaround" in United States policy regarding engaging in negotiations with North Korea, although President Donald Trump previously confirmed willingness to coordinate peace talks during a press conference at Camp David.

Citing a South Korean government source, Yonhap said the government's position is not aimed at "renegotiation or scrapping" the agreement, which was meant to "finally and irreversibly" solve the issue when it was adopted in December 2015.

This is an apparent reference to increased criticism by the conservative South Korean opposition, which argues that financing the North's athletes in PyeongChang could violate worldwide sanctions imposed on the Kim Jong-un regime for its weapons programme. As the vice minister of the government department responsible for the Pyeongchang Olympics, Roh will be capable of discussing various matters related to North Korea's participation in the Olympics.

But on Thursday, Trump called the new talks "a good thing" and said they had been prompted by his "firm, strong" stance, which has included harsher worldwide sanctions and threats of military intervention if the North does not give up its weapons program. He also said he would "absolutely" be willing to talk on the phone to Kim. "It's a start, it's big start", he said. "What he has basically said is, yes, there could be a time where we talk to North Korea, but a lot of things have to happen before that actually takes place".

Asked if North Korea's denuclearization issue could be discussed, the spokesman said, "The two Koreas plan to discuss Olympic cooperation and issues of mutual concern".

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The talks come after North Korea's Kim used his New Year's Day speech to announce he was open to sending a delegation to the Olympics as well as generally reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula, while vowing to never give up his nuclear weapons program.

She said the United States is "not letting up on the pressure" to end North Korea's nuclear weapons development and warned, "We can destroy them, too". That conflict ended in a ceasefire and technically the two sides remain at war. "When discussing inter-Korean relations, the government will seek to raise the issue of war-torn families and ways to ease military tensions", Cho told a group of reporters.

The North Korean delegation is headed by Ri Son Gwon, a hardliner who heads a government agency that handles relations with South Korea. Committee vice chairman Jon Song Su and Hwang Chung Song, a director, will join Ri.

The South's delegation also includes Vice Unification Minister Chun Hae-sung, who has a range of experience in inter-Korean talks.