Suspended Inter-Korean talks to resume after US-South Korea air drill ends: Moon

By Yeo Jun-suk
  • Published : May 23, 2018 - 13:24
  • Updated : May 23, 2018 - 18:26

With North Korea eventually accepting a list of South Korean journalists to cover the shutdown of the Punggye-ri nuclear test site, expectation is growing that suspended inter-Korean talks will resume after a South Korea-US air drill ends Friday. 

Following a summit between President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Donald Trump, Cheong Wa Dae said Tuesday that President Moon expects the two Koreas to resume suspended meetings after the end of the ongoing Max Thunder exercise.

North Korea abruptly postponed high-level inter-Korean talks on May 16 -- just hours before the meeting was scheduled to take place. Pyongyang’s state-run Central News Agency denounced South Korea for working with the US on what it called “a massive war rehearsal.”

A fighter jet takes off from an airbase in Gwangju, South Korea, May 16. (Reuters-Yonhap)

Asked whether there has been a breakthrough between the two Koreas, a Cheong Wa Dae official said while they could not reveal the details, there are “various analyses” that have convinced Moon that the talks would resume. The official spoke under the condition of anonymity, citing official rules.

The remark came after North Korea decided to give South Korean journalists access to the shutdown event of the Punggye-ri site. They had previously been excluded from the symbolic ceremony for North Korea’s denuclearization efforts.

But the prospect of immediately resuming inter-Korean talks remains to be seen, as North Korean negotiators might be busy with preparing for the US-North Korea summit scheduled to take place on June 12.

“Historically, North Korea didn’t pursue dialogues with South Korea and the US simultaneously,” said a Seoul-based North Korea analyst, who requested anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. “And there is the overlapping of the North Korean negotiators dealing with Seoul and Washington.”

North Korea’s state-run newspaper Rodong Shinmun said Wednesday even though there was progress in the US-North Korea summit, there is no guarantee that the suspension of the inter-Korean talks would be resolved automatically.

The newspaper reiterated harsh criticism against Max Thunder, denouncing the exercise as a practice for a pre-emptive airstrike. Including eight F-22 stealth fighter jets, about 100 aircraft from the allies’ air forces participated in the exercise, according to the South Korean military.

North Korea made no criticism when the drill kicked off on May 11 and instead announced its plan to close down the Punggye-ri site the following day. The North said the shutdown event would take place between Wednesday and Friday.

While Cheong Wa Dae declined to comment on whether preparations were being made for the inter-Korean talks and communications with North Korea, analysts said if the talks resumed, it would show there had been consensus between the two Koreas. 

“I think there has been semblance of understanding between the two Koreas for resuming the talks,” said Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University of North Korean Studies. “It doesn’t make sense for North Korea to make such moves without a prepared plan.”

By Yeo Jun-suk (