For a year, North Korea has tested the figurative and literal international boundaries of it's nuclear and overall weapons program despite pushback from the United Nations and the United States. Now, Kim Jung Un’s regime is reportedly seeking a peace treaty with Washington.
Kim sent his vice foreign minister to meet with former top U.S. diplomatic officials in Malaysia over the weekend, according to Sputnik International. The talks took place Friday and Saturday between North Korean vice foreign minister Han Song-ryol and four former U.S. officials, including Robert Gallucci, who was part of the team that reached a landmark deal with the North Koreans in 1994 to halt then-leader Kim Jong Il’s weapons program in exchange for economic help in the poverty-stricken country.
Another member of the U.S. delegation was Leon Sigal, director of the Northeast Asia Cooperative Security Project at the Social Science Research Council, who said the North Koreans specifically asked for a peace treaty and for new diplomatic relations before the isolated nation would agree to curb its nuclear and weapons testing program that has put much of the region and the globe on high alert.
North Korea’s demands directly challenge President Barack Obama’s administration. Obama has long said that North Korea must first halt its weapons programs before any official dialogue between the two nations begins.
But Sigal told Korea Joongang Daily that the weekend meeting “gives us a chance to explore things that you know go beyond what the government is saying right now to see if we can find a way back to negotiations.”
Earlier this year, reports suggested both North Korea and the U.S. had attempted to rekindle negotiations, with both sides saying the other was the first to make the attempt. State Department spokesman John Kirby denied a report by the Wall Street Journal that said the U.S. first secretly reached out in February just prior to North Korea completing another nuclear test, Reuters reported.
"To be clear, it was the North Koreans who proposed discussing a peace treaty," Kirby said to Reuters in an emailed statement at the time. "We carefully considered their proposal, and made clear that denuclearization had to be part of any such discussion. The North rejected our response. Our response to the NK proposal was consistent with our longstanding focus on denuclearization."