North Korea took its most significant step towards diffusing its nuclear stand-off with the US yesterday, telling Seoul it is open to negotiations over ending its weapons programme and would suspend its contentious testing regime while talks were under way.
The concessions, relayed by a high-level delegation of South Korean officials after meeting in Pyongyang with Kim Jong Un, mark a significant change for the North Korean leader, who had touted his nuclear weapons as a “treasured sword of justice”.
韩国高级别代表团在平壤与金正恩(Kim Jong Un)会晤后转达的这些让步，标志着朝鲜领导人的立场出现重大转变，他曾宣称朝鲜的核武器是“正义宝剑”。
“The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearise,” South Korean officials said in a statement after a lavish banquet that was part of what is believed to be the first meeting between Mr Kim and South Korean leaders. Pyongyang would be willing to give up its nuclear weapons “if military threat to the north was eliminated and its security guaranteed”, it added.
If confirmed by the North Koreans, the diplomatic overture would mark a sea change for a region that appeared on the brink of war just five months ago after Pyongyang resumed nuclear and missile testing that prompted the Trump administration to warn of a “massive military response”.
Donald Trump signalled his willingness to go along with the North Korean overtures, which include an April meeting between Mr Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarised zone separating the two nations.
“Possible progress being made in talks with North Korea,” Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. “For the first time in many years, a serious effort is being made by all parties concerned . . . May be false hope, but the US is ready to go hard in either direction!”
唐纳德•特朗普(Donald Trump)发出信号表明，他愿意接受朝鲜伸出的橄榄枝，包括金正恩与韩国总统文在寅(Moon Jae-in) 4月在隔开两国的非军事区举行会谈。
The move comes after weeks of growing closeness between North and South Korea, which used the Winter Olympics in the south to reopen frozen relations.
Pyongyang’s move is particularly striking given the White House’s cool reaction to the Olympic diplomacy, with vice-president Mike Pence, who attended the opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, refusing to engage with the North Korean delegation.
“Whichever direction talks with North Korea go, we will be firm in our resolve,” Mr Pence said yesterday. “All options are on the table and our posture toward the regime will not change until we see credible, verifiable and concrete steps toward de-nuclearisation.”
The US agreed to postpone military exercises with Seoul during the Olympics, but they are scheduled to resume in April. The Pentagon gave no indication whether it would delay them again.
Mr Pence said the US and its allies “remain committed to applying maximum pressure on the Kim regime”. Relaunching the exercises could undermine the planned inter-Korean dialogue. South Korea’s currency strengthened by against the dollar after the new.
Additional reporting by Kang Buseong in Seoul