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NKorea: Recent Moves Signal Strength   03/21 06:17

   TOKYO (AP) -- North Korea's recent moves to ease tensions on the Korean 
Peninsula are evidence of its confidence and national strength, not a sign of 
weakness, according to its state-run media.

   The North's defense of its diplomatic outreach to Seoul and Washington is 
surprising because its media have yet to report virtually any of the activity. 
Only U.S. and South Korean officials have said North Korean leader Kim Jong Un 
plans to meet with President Donald Trump and South Korean President Moon 
Jae-in by May.

   The commentary by the North's official Korean Central News Agency on Tuesday 
said the country's "proactive measure and peace-loving proposal" have caused a 
"dramatic atmosphere for reconciliation" to be "created in relations between 
the North and the South of Korea and there has been a sign of change also in 
the DPRK-U.S. relations."

   DPRK is short for the North's official name, the Democratic People's 
Republic of Korea.

   The commentary offered no other details, saying only that the North has 
started a "dialogue peace offensive." But it strongly criticized current and 
former officials and experts in the U.S. and Japan, along with conservatives in 
South Korea, for suggesting Pyongyang has been pushed into a corner by 
increasingly tough sanctions.

   "The great change in the North-South relations is not an accidental one but 
a noble fruition made thanks to the DPRK's proactive measure, warm 
compatriotism and will for defending peace," the commentary said. "Such an 
event as today could be possible as the DPRK's dignity has remarkably risen and 
it has strong might."

   Kim and Moon have made major steps to reduce tensions that reached 
dangerously high levels last year.

   In an unprecedented gambit, Kim sent his younger sister to attend the 
opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea last month and 
invited Moon to Pyongyang for what would be only the third North-South summit, 
following meetings in 2000 and 2007.

   The South Korean government was also key in brokering the plan for Kim and 
Trump to meet. Washington and Pyongyang have no diplomatic relations and no 
U.S. president has ever sat down with a North Korean leader.

   Moon said Wednesday that the North Korean nuclear crisis must be resolved 
completely through the two upcoming summits. He said a trilateral meeting among 
Seoul, Pyongyang and Washington could be possible, depending on the results of 
the summits.

   Later Wednesday, Moon's presidential office proposed talks with North Korea 
next week to determine the exact timing and agendas for the inter-Korean summit.

   Tuesday's KCNA commentary did not mention the North's nuclear weapons 
program, which Pyongyang often cites as the main source of its military 
strength. South Korean officials who met with Kim in Pyongyang to discuss the 
upcoming summits said he indicated he is willing to discuss denuclearization, 
but the lack of confirmation from Pyongyang has led to concern over what Kim 
may actually be willing to negotiate.

   The commentary specifically denied claims that North Korea made an 
about-face with no concessions from Washington because Trump's "maximum 
pressure" strategy had pushed it to the point beyond which it can no longer 
sustain itself.

   It also lashed out at calls for sustained pressure on the North and 
skepticism that the activity is a ruse intended to merely gain time or drive a 
wedge between Seoul and Washington.

   "The economy of the DPRK is rising," the commentary said, adding that 
advances in science and technology around the country are "promising the bright 
future for the improvement of the people's living standard."

   "The dialogue peace offensive of the DPRK is an expression of 
self-confidence as it has acquired everything it desires," it said.

   The commentary called on all parties involved to act with "prudence, 
self-control and patience."


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