North Korea sets out conditions for talks

Pyongyang wants sanctions lifted, end to war games

South Korean soldiers patrol along the military fences near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea. Photograph: Lee Jae-Won/Reuters

South Korean soldiers patrol along the military fences near the demilitarized zone separating North Korea from South Korea. Photograph: Lee Jae-Won/Reuters

Fri, Apr 19, 2013, 05:00


North Korea has indicated that it might be prepared to negotiate as the region seeks a way to defuse tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Pyongyang yesterday outlined the conditions it wanted for talks to take place. It said it wanted UN sanctions to be lifted, US-South Korean military drills to end, and an apology for the US and South Korea’s aggressive behaviour.

The demands came in a statement from the powerful national defence commission, just four days after Pyongyang rejected Seoul’s latest dialogue offer as insincere.

“Dialogue can never go with war actions,” said the North Korean statement, carried by the official Korean Central News Agency.

The US must also withdraw all of its nuclear weapons from South Korea and the region before the talks can resume, it said, and it called on South Korea to cease “anti-North Korea statements”, including a recent announcement blaming North Korea for a cyberattack on South Korean broadcasters and banks last month.


White House response
In response, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One that the US remained open to “authentic and credible negotiations”, but he said there had been no signs of commitment from Pyongyang that it was prepared to give up its nuclear programme.

US secretary of state John Kerry said the conditions were the first mention of negotiation since the tensions began to increase several weeks ago.

“I’m prepared to look at that as at least a beginning, not acceptable obviously, and we have to go further,” he told the US Senate committee on foreign relations.