South Korean President Moon Jae-in gave President Donald Trump credit for helping start the first inter-Korean talks in over two years.
The talks between Pyongyang and Seoul were held on Tuesday on the South Korean side of the demilitarized zone. This zone has divided the two Koreas since 1953, Reuters reported.
“I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks,” Moon said. “It could be a resulting work of the U.S.-led sanctions and pressure.”
Trump, who called North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “Rocket Man” in October, has taken a strong stance against Kim’s regime after it routinely conducted missile tests and its sixth nuclear test in the face of tightened sanctions from the United Nations.
In December, the U.N. Security Council imposed new sanctions on North Korea in an effort to limit its access to refined petroleum products, seeking to ban 90 percent of petroleum exports to the country, according to Reuters. The resolution also caps crude oil supplies to 4 million barrels a year.
Pyongyang called the new sanctions an “act of war.”
In Kim’s New Year’s address, he said that he’s “open to dialogue” with South Korea and that both the North and South “should lower the military tensions on the Korean Peninsula to create a peaceful environment.”
Trump cited his “firm” approach to diplomatic relations with North Korea as the driving factor behind the country’s willingness to open conversations with their neighbors to the south.
“This initial round of talks is for the improvement of relations between North and South Korea. Our task going forward is to draw North Korea to talks aimed at the denuclearization of the North,” Moon said. “(It‘s) our basic stance that will never be given up.”
Ri Son Gwon, the head of North Korea’s five-member delegation at the talks on Tuesday, said that discussing the nuclear program would further hurt the country’s relationship with South Korea, Reuters reported.
“North Korea’s weapons are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, China or Russia,” Ri Son Gwon said.
A professor at the University of North Korean Studies in Seoul, Lee Woo Young, said that praising Trump was a good move by the South Korean president, according to Reuters.
“By doing that, he can help the U.S. build logic for moving toward negotiations and turning around the state of affairs in the future,” he said. “So when they were ready to talk to the North, they can say the North came out of isolation because the sanctions were effective.”
A large delegation from Pyongyang will be sent to the Winter Olympics in South Korea next month, and joint military exercises between the U.S. and South Korea are being postponed until after the Olympics.
“We cannot say talks are the sole answer,” Moon said. “If North Korea engages in provocations again or does not show sincerity in resolving this issue, the international community will continue applying strong pressure and sanctions.”
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