North Korea has said it will not discuss its nuclear weapons with Seoul because they are aimed only at the United States, not its "brethren" in South Korea.
- North Korea makes "strong complaint" about South's bid to discuss nuclear arms
- Pyongyang says atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and missiles aimed only at US
- White House hasn't yet responded to North Korean comments
In a joint statement after 11 hours of talks yesterday, North Korea pledged to send a large delegation to next month's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea but made a "strong complaint" after Seoul proposed talks to denuclearise the Korean Peninsula.
Officials from both sides said they agreed to meet again to resolve problems and avert accidental conflict, amid high tension over North Korea's program to develop nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States, but Pyongyang said disarmament would not be part of the discussions.
"All our weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missiles, are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia," Pyongyang's chief negotiator, Ri Son Gwon, said.
"This is not a matter between North and South Korea, and to bring up this issue would cause negative consequences and risks turning all of today's good achievement into nothing," Mr Ri, chairman of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland, warned in closing remarks.
US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have exchanged threats and insults in the past year, raising fears of a new war on the peninsula.
A spokesperson for the White House's national Security Council said North Korean participation in the Olympics would be "an opportunity for the regime to see the value of ending its international isolation by denuclearising".
The White House did not immediately comment on the US being the only potential target of North Korea's nuclear weapons.
The US State Department welcomed the talks between the two sides but said it would work with Seoul to ensure North Korea's participation does not violate UN sanctions.
UN, China, Russia welcome talks
The US, which has 28,500 troops stationed in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, initially responded coolly to the idea of inter-Korean meetings, but Mr Trump later called them "a good thing" and said he would be willing to speak to Mr Kim.
The US — which has warned that all options, including military ones, are on the table in dealing with North Korea — insists that any future talks must have the aim of denuclearisation, and the North-South thaw has not altered the US intelligence assessment of North Korea's weapons programs.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres yesterday welcomed the progress made in the talks, particularly the agreement to hold military-to-military talks, calling this "critical to lowering the risk of miscalculation".
China's Foreign Ministry said it was happy to see talks between North and South Korea and welcomed all positive steps.
Russia echoed the sentiment, with a Kremlin spokesman saying: "This is exactly the kind of dialogue that we said was necessary."
In spite of the North Korean negotiator's remarks, South Korea's Unification Ministry said it believed yesterday's talks could lead to discussion of a "fundamental resolution" of the nuclear issue.
"We will closely coordinate with the United States, China, Japan and other neighbours in this process," it said, adding that Seoul had asked North Korea to halt acts that stoke tension.
Yesterday's meeting followed a year of ramped-up North Korean missile launches, and its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, which have prompted a stepped-up US-led campaign to toughen UN sanctions, which Pyongyang has called an act of war.
Earlier on Tuesday, Seoul said it was prepared to lift some unilateral sanctions temporarily so North Koreans could visit for the Winter Olympics.
North Korea said its delegation would include athletes, high-ranking officials, a cheering squad, art performers, reporters and spectators.
Talks to work out details would be held soon, the South's Unification Ministry said.
The talks were the first between the two Koreas since 2015 and were held at the Peace House on the South Korean side of Panmunjom truce village.
"We came to this meeting with the thought of giving our brethren, who have high hopes for this dialogue, invaluable results as the first present of the year," Mr Ri said at the start of the meeting.
Seoul said it proposed reunions of divided families in time for February's Lunar New Year holiday, but the joint statement made no mention of any agreement on this.