SEOUL — A high-level North Korean delegation reiterated the country’s existing position on joint military exercises between South Korea and the United States when they visited the South for the closing ceremony of the PyeongChang Olympics, the unification minister was quoted on Thursday as saying.
Unification Minister Cho Myoung-gyon made the remark while briefing members of the ruling Democratic Party about the results of meetings with the North’s delegation, led by Kim Yong-chol, a vice chairman of the Central Committee of the North’s ruling Workers’ Party, according to a participant.
Participants in Wednesday’s closed-door briefing asked Cho if the North’s delegation expressed concern about South Korea-US military exercises, and Cho said in response that the North expressed its "existing basic position" on the issue.
North Korea has long demanded a halt to annual South-US military exercises, denouncing them as a rehearsal for invasion of the country. Seoul and Washington have rejected the North’s demand, saying the maneuvers are purely defensive.
"It appears that our government and the North exchanged their basic positions," another participant said.
South Korea and the US have put off the annual exercises, which usually take place between February and March, in an effort to make sure that the Winter Olympics wouldn’t be affected by tensions with North Korea, as the country has long used such exercises as a pretext for provocations.
Officials in Seoul said they will announce when to resume the exercises after the Paralympics are over.
During Wednesday’s briefing, Cho was also quoted as saying that it appears difficult for US-North Korea talks to reopen soon as there are many variables that have to be resolved.
"The US position hasn’t been clearly set and the North’s position also appears to be that it won’t hold talks if denuclearisation is the only topic," a participant said. "Due to these reasons, (Cho) said it appears to be difficult (for the US and the North) to step immediately forward (for talks)." — YONHAP