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North Korea: the challenge of turning inter-Korean thaw into longer-term detente


The peaceful climate in which yesterday’s meeting between South and North Korea took place quickly evaporate when the North’s chief negotiator threatened to walk out after the South Korean side raised the question Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programmes. “We had started in a good spirit but this came to an icky mood”, North Korea’s lead delegate Ri Son Gwon complained in closing remarks. Ri also said he would not discuss North Korea’s nuclear weapons programme with the South because its nuclear bombs and intercontinental ballistic missiles are aimed “thoroughly” at the United States, not at its “brethren” in the South. This reaction shows how, although talks yielded agreements to hold military talks and facilitate North Korea’s participation in next month’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, turning this loosening of tensions into a longer-term detente will be very difficult. North Korea in fact does not intend to negotiate its nuclear arsenal while on the other side Washington insist that complete denuclearisation is the only acceptable outcome.

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