Pyongyang has proposed high-level talks with the US without preconditions, KCNA state news agency reports. This comes after North and South Korea canceled negotiations amid high tensions on the Korean peninsula.
On Sunday KCNA delivered a statement by the North Korean National Defense Commission, headed by the country’s leader Kim Jong-un, which said that Washington can pick a date and place for talks and the two sides can discuss a range of issues.
“[We] propose high-level talks between the North Korean and US governments to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula, and establish regional peace and security,” the statement said.
It however warned that no preconditions should be attached.
“If the US has true intent on defusing tensions on the Korean Peninsula and ensuring peace and security in the US mainland and the region, it should not raise preconditions for dialogue and contact,” the statement underlined.
Until recently Washington’s main precondition for talks has always been denuclearization of North Korea, a sacrifice Pyongyang never agreed to make so far.
Pyongyang’s Sunday statement insists that its atomic arsenal is “self-defense” against the military and nuclear threats from the US which has about 28,500 troops in South Korea as well as nuclear weapons for initial assault.
That is why it appears unlikely that Washington will accept the proposal.
The White House has “open lines of communication” with North Korea, Reuters reports, but plans to judge Pyongyang by its actions, not by words.
“The US has repeatedly made it clear that it was not interested in a dialogue for the sake of dialogue,”Yang Moo-jin, a professor at the University North Korean Studies in Seoul, told Associated Press.
Glyn Davies, US envoy to North Korea, said on Friday in Washington that the US would neither allow North Korea to remain a nuclear state nor reward it for “absence of bad behavior.”
The Pyongyang proposal will be discussed at next week’s senior-level talks between the US, Japan and South Korea in Washington.
“We will be meeting with our Japanese and South Korean partners in a trilateral setting and this will be one of the subjects for discussion,” a senior American administration official said on Sunday, Reuters cites.
The North Korean proposal comes ahead of the meeting of Chinese leader Xi Jinping with the South Korean president. Xi conducted talks with the US President Barack Obama earlier this month and is preparing to hold talks with South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on Thursday. Chinese leader has agreed with Obama that the North must give up its nuclear arsenal and the upcoming Beijing’s talks with Seoul might bring more changes for Pyongyang.
“We have every expectation that Beijing will use its special relationship with the DPRK to encourage Pyongyang to choose a different path,” Davies told the Wilson Center think tank.
Still, the North Korean move may help defuse tensions which have been running high as Pyongyang threatened nuclear missile strikes against South Korea and the United States bases in the region, following a round of UN sanctions adopted in response to a nuclear weapons test in February.
On June 9, the first meeting in two years between North and South delegations started at Panmunjeom in the demilitarized zone, 53 km north from Seoul. Panmunjeom is where the 1953 Korean Armistice Agreement was signed, putting the Korean War on hold.
The parties agreed to conduct negotiations on June 12 on a wide number of issues, including reunification of families, tourism from South to North, various humanitarian issues and restart operation of the Kaesong industrial region.
But the talks never took place. Pyongyang accused Seoul of appointing a deputy minister to head the delegation, while the meeting was announced as ministerial. The last time ministers of two countries were behind negotiation table in 2007.
Seoul in turn accused the northern neighbor of ignoring special intergovernmental line phone calls.