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N Korea at crossroads

North Korea signals 'interest' in formal end to war with South

However, Kim Yo Jong says Seoul first needs to change hostile rhetoric

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his sister Kim Yo Jong attend a bilateral meeting with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in 2018. Despite a decades-old armistice, the two Koreas technically remain at war.   © Reuters

SEOUL -- Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, on Friday called the idea of formally ending its war with South Korea "interesting," signaling that her country may be open to discussing the matter.

"The declaration of the termination of the war is an interesting and an admirable idea," Kim Yo Jong said in a statement published by North Korea's state-run Korean Central News Agency. Kim serves as vice department director of the ruling Workers' Party Central Committee.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for a declaration to end the war in the Korean Peninsula during his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday.

"I believe we can make irreversible progress in denuclearization and usher in an era of complete peace," he said.

Though the two Koreas signed an armistice in 1953, they technically remain in a state of war.

But Kim Yo Jong on Friday rejected the possibility of issuing such a declaration at this time, citing "double-dealing standards, prejudice and hostile policies" by Seoul toward Pyongyang.

North Korea is willing to "have constructive discussion with [South Korea] about the restoration and development of the bilateral relations if it is careful about its future language," she said.

North Korea has been oscillating between hard-line and conciliatory stances with the South. It restored its communication hotline with Seoul in July following a roughly yearlong hiatus, then it went down again the following month when South Korea began joint military drills with the U.S.

Kim's remarks Friday, which comes less than two weeks after North Korea fired two ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, were likely intended to test the Moon administration's reaction.

The Korean Central News Agency earlier Friday published a statement by Vice Foreign Minister Ri Thae Song urging the U.S. to abandon its hostile policies against North Korea. Pyongyang may be hoping to use Moon's suggestion as a potential bargaining chip with Washington.

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