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Ex-Canadian Diplomat: US Must Stay Out of Intra-Korean Talks

© AP Photo / Ahn Young-joonA South Korean news magazine with front cover photos of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and a headline "Korean Peninsula Crisis" is displayed at the Dong-A Ilbo building in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017
A South Korean news magazine with front cover photos of U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, right, and a headline Korean Peninsula Crisis is displayed at the Dong-A Ilbo building in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 - Sputnik International
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WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - The United States must avoid meddling in exploratory talks between senior North and South Korean officials to allow the parties to make progress towards a settlement, former Canadian diplomat Patrick Armstrong told Sputnik.

"It's a big local problem but one which the locals can solve," Armstrong said on Wednesday. "If China — and to a lesser degree Russia — can act as guarantors, and the United States can keep out of it, some sort of initial settlement can be constructed which can, one hopes, lead to something longer term."

Armstrong said it was essential for the United States to back away from the talks and give both sides the freedom to try and find common ground as the basis for further negotiations.

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"The fact that South Korea wants to talk to North Korea, hopefully with China chairing the meeting, is a good sign," Armstrong added.

Armstrong also said that regular US-South Korean military drills continually persuade the North Korean leader that his country needs nuclear weapons to defend against an invasion.

"Every year there is an exercise that convinces [Kim] all over again," Armstrong said.

The solution to the crisis on the peninsula can be found in China’s "double suspension" proposal, he claimed, wherein North Korea would stop its nuclear activity in exchange for Seoul and Washington ceasing military exercises.

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On Tuesday, South Korea’s Unification Ministry said Seoul proposed to hold high-level talks with Pyongyang at the demilitarized zone on January 9. The proposal came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un expressed hope that his country's athletes would participate in the upcoming Olympic games.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said the United States will not recognize any possible talks between North and South Korea unless they result in a ban on nuclear weapons on the peninsula.

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