N. Korea key topic at forum of S. Korean, Japanese lawmakers

By Yonhap
  • Published : Feb 12, 2018 - 15:49
  • Updated : Feb 12, 2018 - 15:49

How to deal with North Korea was one of the main topics when lawmakers from South Korea and Japan held a discussion in Seoul on Monday, officials said, amid a thaw in inter-Korean relations spurred by North Korea's Olympics charm offensive.

Relations between South Korea and North Korea have warmed rapidly in recent weeks after North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said in his New Year's Day address that the country was willing to participate in the PyeongChang Winter Olympics. The two Koreas have since worked out the details and the North has sent not only athletes but also hundreds of other people as part of a cheering squad and an art troupe.

The North's leader also sent his sister, Kim Yo-jong, and the country's ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, to the South. The delegation paid a visit to South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Saturday and delivered the leader's invitation for Moon to visit the North.

The abrupt peace offensive by the North, following years of escalating tensions with nuclear and missile tests, has raised concern among conservatives that the regime may be using the rapprochement with the South to undermine international sanctions against it.

South Korean and Japanese lawmakers pose for a photo ahead of an annual forum in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)

During Monday's discussion, Japanese lawmakers said it is understandable that the two Koreas have separated families and other issues to resolve, but the North's charm offensive could after all be an attempt to earn time for nuclear and missile development, according to Lim Byung-shik, a deputy spokesman of the National Assembly.

The Japanese legislators stressed that the North's nuclear program should first be frozen before the communist nation comes forward for talks to end its nuclear program.

In response, South Korean lawmakers said the United Nations has adopted a resolution calling for a halt to escalating tensions during the Winter Olympics and that the South can take advantage of lowered tensions to review and think about how to handle relations with the North.

Also on the table was Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's call for swiftly resuming Korea-US military exercises that have been postponed until after the Olympics. Abe made the request during a summit with President Moon on Friday.

Moon has rejected the request, saying it is a matter of the country's sovereignty.

On Monday, Rep. Yun Ho-jung of the ruling Democratic Party told the inter-parliamentary meeting that he was grateful for Abe's visit to the South but that the Japanese leader lost points with a remark contrary to the festive mood.

Rep. Kim Han-jung of the ruling party also said South Korea will make a decision on its own based on what would be good for its national interest as well as peace in Northeast Asia and the world.

In response, Japanese lawmakers said Abe decided to make the visit despite strong opposition from within his own Liberal Democracy Party and that North Korea has so far engaged in acts that have led other nations to lose trust in it. (Yonhap)