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S. Korea’s Moon says Trump deserves big credit for North Korea talks

South Korean President says US President brought both Koreas to table

SEOUL South Korean President Moon JaeIn yesterday credited US President Donald Trump for helping to spark the first inter-Korean talks in more than two years and warned that Pyongyang would face stronger sanctions if provocations continued.

The talks were held on Tuesday on the South Korean side of the demilitarised zone, which has divided the two Koreas since 1953, after a prolonged period of tension on the Korean peninsula over the North's missile and nuclear programmes.

North Korea ramped up its missile launches last year and also conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, resulting in some of the strongest international sanctions yet.

The latest sanctions sought to drastically cut the North's access to refined petroleum imports and earnings from workers abroad. Pyongyang called the steps an "act of war".

Seoul and Pyongyang agreed at Tuesday's talks, the first since December 2015, to resolve all problems between them through dialogue and also to revive military consultation so that accidental conflict could be averted.

"I think President Trump deserves big credit for bringing about the inter-Korean talks, I want to show my gratitude," Mr Moon told reporters at his New Year's news conference. "It could be a resulting work of the US-led sanctions and pressure."

THREATS, INSULTS

Mr Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanged threats and insults over the past year, raising fears of a new war on the peninsula.

South Korea and the US are technically still at war with the North after the 1950-53 Korean conflict ended with a truce, not a peace treaty.

Washington had raised concerns that the overtures by North Korea could drive a wedge between it and Seoul, but Mr Moon said his government did not differ with the US over how to respond to the threats posed by Pyongyang.

"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 denuclearisation of the North," Mr Moon said.

"(It is) our basic stance that will never be given up."

Mr Moon said he was open to meeting Mr Kim at any time to improve bilateral ties, if the conditions are right and "certain achievements are guaranteed".

"The purpose of it shouldn't be talks for the sake of talks," he said.

However, Pyongyang said it would not discuss its nuclear weapons with Seoul because they were aimed only at the US, not its "brethren" in South Korea, nor Russia or China, showing that a diplomatic breakthrough remained far off.- REUTERS

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