North Korea’s top governing body yesterday proposed high-level nuclear and security talks with the US in an appeal sent days after calling off talks with South Korea.
The powerful North Korean National Defense Commission headed by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un issued a statement through state media proposing “senior level” talks to ease tensions and discuss a peace treaty formally ending the Korean War.
There was no immediate response from Washington, but Glyn Davies, US President Barack Obama’s top envoy on North Korea, on Friday said that while the US is not averse to talking with Pyongyang, the bar for resuming engagement is higher in the wake of repeated nuclear threats.
The rare proposal for talks follows months of acrimony over North Korea’s defiant launch of a long-range rocket in December last year and a nuclear test in February, acts that drew tightened UN and US sanctions. The US and South Korea countered by stepping up annual military exercises.
However, as tensions subsided, Pyongyang has made tentative overtures for dialogue.
Earlier this year, Kim enshrined the drive to build a nuclear arsenal as a national goal. North Korea claims the need to build atomic weapons to defend the country against what it sees as a US nuclear threat.
North Korea will not give up its nuclear ambitions until the entire Korean Peninsula is free of nuclear weapons, a National Defense Commission spokesman said in a statement carried by the Korean Central News Agency.
Pyongyang’s bid to reach out to Washington comes as South Korean President Park Geun-hye is to sit down for talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Beijing later this month.
“The fact that North Korea proposed talks ahead of the South Korea-China summit signifies its intent to keep China in check,” said Kim Yong-hyun, a professor of North Korean studies of Dongguk University in Seoul.
Pyongyang is also sending a message to South Korea that if it does not try to improve relations, the North will go directly to Washington, sidelining Seoul, he said.