SEOUL, South Korea, Jan. 8 (UPI) — North Korea‘s overture for improving inter-Korean relations may be a tactic to increase its leverage in potential negotiations with Washington, South Korean experts said.
Seoul and Pyongyang on Tuesday are set to hold the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years, following Kim Jong Un‘s New Year’s speech last week calling for improved ties between the two sides as well as suggesting the North participate in the Winter Olympics next month.
The Olympic participation will be the main agenda of the talks but Seoul says there could be room to discuss other areas of mutual interest and cooperation.
The easing of military tensions on the peninsula, reunions between separated families, and economic cooperation are some of the pending issues between the two Koreas.
North Korea has also shown interest in improving relations, with state media KCNA on Sunday calling for “practical actions” to foster “reconciliation, unity and reunification.”
However, analysts suspect an ulterior motive to Pyongyang’s sudden desire for better relations with the South.
“As the United States didn’t call for dialogue with the North which claimed to have achieved full nuclear capacity, Pyongyang seems to have the intention of calling on Washington for talks through Seoul with this high-level dialogue,” Kim Geun-sik, a professor at Kyungnam University told News 1.
Washington has maintained it will never accept the North as a nuclear power, and indicated it will engage in serious talks on the condition that Pyongyang is willing to denuclearize.
“While emphasizing the image of peace and reunification internally and externally, the North is trying to take control of improving inter-Korean relations, to use it as a passageway to approach Washington. That is [North Korean leader] Kim Jong Un’s strategic intention,” Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies said.
He expressed support for North’s participation in the Winter Olympics held in South Korea next month, as well as giving a nod to the upcoming inter-Korean dialogue.
“I’d love to see them take it beyond the Olympics… At the appropriate time, we’ll get involved,” he said, according to CNN.
His ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley clarified on Sunday that the North must stop testing its nukes and be willing to talk about banning its weapons.
She told ABC News there has been “no turnaround” in the president’s policy and that “a lot of things need to happen before that (the dialogue) takes place.”