Published: Wed, February 21, 2018
Global Media | By Abel Hampton

Fewer countries welcoming North Korean passport holders

Fewer countries welcoming North Korean passport holders

The South Korean Defence Ministry on Tuesday said that it will carry out its annual military drills with the USA once the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

"Issues of mutual interest could naturally be on the table during the process of the visit", South Korean foreign ministry spokesman Noh Kyu-duk said Tuesday, according to Seoul-based news agency Yonhap.

He also said the North didn't ask for the postponement of the drills as a condition for participating in the Olympics or the inter-Korean talks.

"I am aware that discussion between the South Korean and the USA military authorities are underway to resume the military drills", Cho Myoung-Gyon said, saying he saw no reason to oppose them.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his US counterpart Donald Trump agreed in January to delay the military exercises until mid-March to help facilitate a "peace Olympics" in the South.

Pyongyang is likely to demand a complete halt of the joint exercises in cross-border military talks, which the two Koreas agreed to hold during their high-level talks last month.

General Vincent Brooks, who heads the USA contingent of 28,000 troops on South Korean soil, assured a U.S. parliamentary committee last week that both countries will carry out once a year their on-the-ground training, regardless of the inter-Korean rapprochement.

"We have never begged for dialogue with the USA nor (will we) in the future", said Jo Yong Sam, director-general at North Korea's foreign ministry, according to the North's state-run KCNA news agency.

But the communist state hates the joint war games, which are held in the spring and the fall, and warned on Monday that a move to restart them would be "a wild act of ruthlessly trampling even a small sprout of peace that has been now seen on the Korean peninsula".

The peninsula teetered on the edge of conflict past year as Donald Trump, US president, faced off with Kim Jong-un, North Korea's supreme leader, over the regime's testing of long-range ballistic missiles.

The president's oldest daughter is set to meet with South Korean officials in Seoul, with efforts to arrange talks between the US and North Korea ahead of any denuclearization negotiations potentially on the agenda. While North Korea's ballistic missile and nuclear programs have advanced, they have not reached completion. "The upcoming visit by adviser Ivanka is meant to celebrate the successful hosting of the Pyeongchang Olympics and highlight the mutual understanding of the South Korea-U.S. alliance".

Citing a passport index of 199 countries, the US broadcaster said the global standing of a North Korean passport has recently fallen from 85th to 86th place.

He promised to work to use the momentum from the Olympics to promote a dialogue between Washington and Pyongyang focused on the denuclearization of the peninsula.

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