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N. Korea's Olympic participation opens up 'tiny' window for denuclearization talks: Ban Ki-moon

All Headlines 16:08 January 25, 2018

SEOUL, Jan. 25 (Yonhap) -- North Korea's participation in the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics opens up a window of opportunity to resume long-suspended talks to discuss the country's denuclearization, former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday.

"There's actually a very tiny window open," Ban said in a press seminar. He added he thought the PyeongChang Olympics could be "very successful" in opening up denuclearization talks with North Korea.

"(The question is) how to expand this window to lead to actual, meaningful talks. I agree (with some diplomats in the U.S. and South Korea) that this is the best time for talks with the North," the former South Korean foreign minister also noted.

"Without any talks to follow PyeongChang, the crisis of last year will be repeated. Talks must be started," he said. "The small window could be wide open depending on how we do."

Military talks between the two Koreas could be one of the options for such talks following the Olympics, Ban said, referring to the countries' recent agreement in principle to hold dialogue between their militaries.

"If it does not take place as agreed, another bout of problems or North Korea's miscalculation or defiant provocations could follow," he stated.

The end state of any disarmament talks with North Korea should complete denuclearization, not a freeze of the nuclear program as proposed by some experts, he said, adding that a freeze would only put a temporary lid on the North Korean nuclear issue.

Still, there's a possibility that the current reconciliatory mood created by the North's Olympic participation may not lead to talks for denuclearization, Ban also warned.

"Looking back at the past, the North has frequently gone ahead with provocative remarks or behavior after major events," he said.

Ban also referred to the North's recent decision to move the celebration of the Korean People's Army's foundation, originally in April, to Feb. 8, which is just a day before the opening of the PyeongChang Olympics in the South. "I see this as uncommon."

He speculated that the North's Olympic participation may have been driven by an intent to break out of the economic difficulties inflicted by the international sanctions on the country.

"You must be well aware that the North has often used peace gestures whenever it was stuck in a difficult situation in the past," according to Ban. If that's the case, the North will be faced with international sanctions after the closure of the Olympics that are far stronger than last year's, he also said.

"South Korea needs to be braced for (such possibilities) and ready to put pressure (on so that) North Korea is made to think that there's no way out than coming out for negotiations."

N. Korea's Olympic participation opens up 'tiny' window for denuclearization talks: Ban Ki-moon - 1

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