© Reuters. North Korean chief Kim Jong Un gestures as he watches the test-firing of a new-type tactical guided weapon in response to state media, North Korea, on this undated picture launched on April 16, 2022 by North Korea’s Korean Central Information Company (KCNA). KCNA
By Hyonhee Shin
SEOUL (Reuters) -North Korean chief Kim Jong Un has thanked South Korea’s outgoing president for making an attempt to enhance relations, a uncommon gesture of goodwill however one which analysts mentioned might not be sufficient to move off rising stress between the 2 Koreas.
The nice and cozy phrases from North Korea to President Moon Jae-in got here in an trade of letters lower than three weeks earlier than Moon leaves workplace to get replaced by a conservative chief who has already signalled a more durable line on North Korea
Analysts had been sceptical that North Korea’s message heralded a broader enchancment in relations, and warned that the reward for Moon may very well be a bid to painting his successor, Yoon Suk-yeol, as answerable for any additional deterioration in ties.
North Korean state media was the primary to report the trade and the surprising North Korean plaudits for the stalled effort by Moon and his liberal administration to have interaction.
“Kim Jong Un appreciated the pains and energy taken by Moon Jae-in for the nice reason for the nation till the final days of his time period of workplace,” North Korea’s KCNA state information company reported.
The trade of letters was an “expression of their deep belief”, it mentioned.
The letters come towards a backdrop of stress since a failed North Korea-U.S. summit in 2019, exacerbated final month when North Korea launched intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), ending a self-imposed 2017 moratorium.
Moon despatched a letter on Wednesday and promised to attempt to lay a basis for unification primarily based on joint declarations reached at summits in 2018, regardless of the “tough state of affairs”, KCNA mentioned.
Moon’s workplace confirmed that he had exchanged “letters of friendship” with Kim.
Moon mentioned the “period of confrontation” needs to be overcome with dialogue, and inter-Korean engagement was now a process for the following administration, his spokeswoman advised a briefing. Moon additionally expressed hope for the swift resumption of U.S.-North Korea denuclearisation talks.
Kim mentioned in his reply on Thursday that their “historic” summits gave the individuals “hope for the long run”, and the 2 agreed that ties would develop if either side “make tireless efforts with hope”, KCNA reported.
PRETEXT FOR BLAME?
The trade got here as U.S. Particular Consultant for North Korea Sung Kim was in South Korea for talks. The U.S. envoy has mentioned he’s open to sitting down with the North at any time with out preconditions, but it surely was unclear whether or not Moon’s letter particularly proposed a gathering.
Analysts questioned the North’s true intentions.
“This appears to be like extra like one other step in constructing the pretext guilty Yoon for extra escalation from North Korea, somewhat than an olive department to Yoon or Biden,” mentioned Markus Garlauskas, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council suppose tank and former U.S. nationwide intelligence officer for North Korea.
Yang Moo-jin, a professor on the College of North Korean Research in Seoul, mentioned the letters might sign to Yoon that the door for cooperation was nonetheless open, and a possible seventh nuclear take a look at by the North or another future motion would hinge on Yoon’s method.
Yoon, who takes workplace on Might 10, has mentioned that he’s open to dialogue however higher navy deterrence and a stronger U.S. alliance are wanted to counter the North’s “provocations”.
Kwon Younger-se, Yoon’s nominee to supervise cross-border affairs, mentioned the trade of letters was a “good factor” and Kim provided “optimistic” views on inter-Korean ties.
“There was some content material that the brand new authorities would need to hear,” he advised reporters. “It was very optimistic that he doesn’t negatively see belief and progress in relations.”
Stress escalated when North Korea final month carried out its first full ICBM take a look at since 2017, and there are considerations that it’s making ready to restart nuclear testing.
LEGACY AT STAKE
Moon staked his legacy on bettering inter-Korean ties and helped organize unprecedented conferences between Kim Jong Un after which U.S. President Donald Trump in 2018 and 2019.
Three summits Kim and Moon held in 2018 promised peace and reconciliation however relations have soured, with the North warning of harmful motion and demolishing services constructed by South Korean corporations for joint tasks.
In 2020, the North spectacularly blew up a joint liaison workplace on the border, which Moon’s authorities had spent 9.78 billion received ($8.6 million) renovating.
The 2 leaders tried once more to fix ties final 12 months however little progress was made and Pyongyang then criticised Seoul’s “double requirements” over weapons.
North Korea’s assertion left open a risk for Moon to play a job as envoy, however Christopher Inexperienced, a Korea specialist at Leiden College within the Netherlands, mentioned it was unlikely to have a optimistic impression on his repute.
The assertion might stir controversy within the South by portraying Moon as “a deluded peacenik who, after all of the weapons checks North Korea has carried out within the final eight months, remains to be writing convivial letters to Kim”, Inexperienced mentioned.
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