All papers wrote from Seoul that Kim Yong Chol, who headed the North Korean delegation to the PyeongChang Olympics closing ceremony, told senior ROK government officials again on Monday that Pyongyang is open to dialogue with Washington. The dailies also took up a White House statement released on Sunday regarding the DPRK official’s similar remarks made earlier to South Korean President Moon, with Mainichi conjecturing that although the Trump administration appears to be firm in maintaining the pressure on North Korea, it is also taking a flexible stance on holding communications with the defiant regime. The daily explained that it appears as though neither Washington nor Tokyo is ruling out “preliminary contact” with Pyongyang to see whether it is finally ready to take steps toward denuclearization. Sankei wrote that the GOJ is anxious to take a concerted line with the Trump administration in responding to North Korea’s overtures.
In a related story, Sankei wrote that the Trump administration is apparently being very careful in selecting language to describe communications with the Kim regime. The daily quoted an unnamed high-ranking MOFA official as saying: “The USG is strictly differentiating between chats, talks, dialogue, and negotiations.” The daily asserted that Tokyo is not opposed to the idea of Washington making “contact” through chats or talks with Pyongyang, since either form of communication allows each side to make its own case without negotiating. According to the daily, the USG and GOJ share the view that dialogue or negotiations must be preceded by North Korea’s stated intention to denuclearize.