Signaling a possible diffusion of tension in the Korean Peninsula, North Korea on Thursday offered the U.S. and South Korea a list of preconditions for talks, including demands to lift the U.N. sanctions and to end the joint U.S.-South Korea military drills.
In a statement carried on North Korea’s official news agency KCNA, the Policy Department of the National Defense Commission, the country’s top governing body, also asked the U.S. to withdraw all nuclear weapons assets from South Korea and the region. It added that Seoul must stop all anti-North Korea rhetoric, referring to the blame Seoul aimed at its hostile northern neighbor for a cyber attack on South Korean broadcasters and banks last month.
“Dialogue and war cannot co-exist,” Pyongyang said.
“If the United States and the puppet South have the slightest desire to avoid the sledge-hammer blow of our army and the people... and truly wish dialogue and negotiations, they must make the resolute decision,” it said.
“The first step will be withdrawing the U.N. Security Council resolutions cooked up on ridiculous grounds,” the statement said.
“Second, you need to tell the whole world that you will not get involved in any rehearsal for a nuclear war that threatens our nation. Dialogues and war games can never go together,” it added.
Tensions in the Korean peninsula have been escalating ever since Pyongyang was condemned for its nuclear test in February.
Pyongyang opposes the fresh U.N. sanctions following the test and two months of joint U.S.-South Korean field exercises that began March 1.
The U.S. has about 28,500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent against potential North Korean aggression.
Earlier, Washington had offered talks, but on the precondition that North Korea abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
On April 14, North Korea had refused to negotiate with the South on the future of the joint Kaesong Industrial Complex, calling the offer an “empty, meaningless” act aimed at disguising invasion plans.
North Korean laborers failed to report for work on April 9 at the complex, a few kilometers inside the border with North Korea, effectively shutting down the last major symbol of cooperation between the hostile neighbors.
On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged North Korea to “seriously” consider a dialogue with the South about Kaesong Industrial Complex.
“I firmly believe that the recent offer of dialogue by the Republic of Korea is genuine and hope that the DPRK takes it seriously,” Ban said, as reported by the BBC.