North Korea offers to hold high-level talks with US
Pyonyang extends olive branch to Washington despite breakdown of contact with Seoul
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits the Yuphyong Revolutionary Site, in this undated photo released today by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA). Photograph: KCNA/Reuters
North Korea today offered high-level talks with the United States to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula, only days after it cancelled planned official talks with South Korea for the first time in over two years.
Planned high-level talks between North and South Korea were scrapped last week after the North abruptly called off the talks. The North blamed the South for scuttling discussions that sought to mend estranged ties between the rival Koreas.
North Korea National Defence Commission in a statement carried by KCNA news agency today said Washington can pick a date and place for talks and the two sides can discuss a range of issues, but no preconditions should be attached.
“In order to ease tensions on the Korean peninsula and to achieve regional peace and safety, we propose to hold high-level talks between the DPRK and the United States, “ said the spokesman for the North’s National Defence Commission in the statement. North Korea’s official name is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).
“If the US is truly interested in securing regional peace and safety and easing tensions, it should not mention of preconditions for the talks,” the statement said.
Earlier this year, North Korea threatened nuclear and missile strikes against South Korea and the United States after it was hit with UN sanctions for its February nuclear weapons test.
In the statement, Pyongyang reiterated it was willing to discuss disarmament but the world should also be denuclearised including its southern neighbor. It added it wants the United States to sign a formal peace treaty formally ending the 1950-53 Korean War that divided the two Koreas.
Korea was divided after the second World War and when the Korean War ended in an armistice rather than a permanent peace treaty, leaving the two countries technically at war.
North Korea agreed a denuclearisation-for-aid deal in 2005 but later backed out of that accord. It has said its nuclear arms are a “treasured sword” that it will not abandon.
North Korea’s one major diplomatic ally, China, has urged Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons programme and return to talks.
The North has a long record of making threats to secure concessions from the United States and South Korea.
North Korea’s 30-year-old leader, Kim Jong-un, took power in December 2011 and has since carried out two long-range rocket launches and a nuclear weapons test, as well as a campaign of threats against South Korea and the United States.
Threats have waned in the past month, showing signs of easing tensions such as proposing talks with South Korea in early June. The talks had been intended to discuss issues resuming operations of joint commercial projects and families split during the 1950-53 Korean War.