Seoul proposed to hold high-level talks with Pyongyang at the demilitarized zone on January 9. On Tuesday, US Ambassador to the United Nations 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 Korean Peninsula.
"Intra-Korean dialogue is the key to a peaceful future on the peninsula," Freeman said. "The great powers that have dominated the peninsula in the past — Chinese, Japanese, Russians, and Americans — are no longer the arbiters of Koreans' fate."
North Korea regularly claims South Korea has no independent policy of its own and only does what the United States tells it to, Freeman acknowledged.
"Pyongyang demeans Seoul by treating it as a US lackey," he said.
"In the end, therefore, Koreans will decide their own future," he said.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung-wha held a phone conversation with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday, explaining the position of Seoul about possible talks with North Korea ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Freeman is an expert on Northeast Asia security affairs and was US President Richard Nixon's translator with Mao Zedong on his first visit to China.
Freeman is a lifetime director of the Atlantic Council and served as US Deputy Chief of Mission and Charge d’affaires at the US embassies in Beijing and Bangkok. He also held several senior level positions at the US Defense Department.
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